Cleanup of Tar Ponds clears major hurdle after contaminants contained
Warning signs are posted on the fence surrounding the tar ponds in Sydney, N.S. on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 3:33PM AST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 6:39PM AST
The spot once dubbed Canada’s most hazardous waste site is no more.
Some of the last sludge left in the Sydney Tar Ponds was remediated today – a milestone eight years in the making.
The remediated site of the Sydney Tar Ponds is unrecognizable compared to the black ponds of thick sludge formed by the toxic fallout from a century of steel making.
The last few tons of gooey sediment left in the tar ponds was mixed with cement Thursday, and in a few days it will be entombed.
The $300-million cleanup is already earning environmental accolades.
“We were always known as the Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup, but now we are being recognized as a Brownfield redevelopment site, which is making use of the land after it’s been cleaned up,” says Donnie Burke of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.
Artists’ renderings depict 100 hectares of post tar ponds parkland and some planners even envisage the site as a scaled down version of New York’s Central Park.
The difference is that below ground, toxic sludge remains cemented in a solid base capped by thick layers of rock and clay.
Steve MacCormack, head of the solidification project, is confident the site won’t be a hazard to human health.
“The stabilization has been very effective in trapping the contaminants right on site,” says MacCormack. “We are very confident that it will hold things in place. It is a proven technology that has been used throughout the world, so we are very confident that it will be very effective for Cape Breton as well.”
The remediation has employed more than 3,000 workers and pumped more than $150 million into the local economy.
“It’s been a good job for Cape Breton and it’s been a good job for the local workers,” says tar ponds worker John Webster. “The site, in the end, will be a monument to Sydney, when it’s a park.”
The project is finishing up on time and under budget.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald