The Halifax Chronicle-Herald
Saturday, February 27, 1999
page A5

JAG Web site rankles board of trade

'Could deter' tourists, business

by Tera Camus, tcamus@herald.ns.ca

Sydney, NS -- The Cape Breton Industrial Board of Trade is hoping to kill a new Web site launched Friday that features the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site.

President Avvie Druker says the Joint Action Group's Web site will hurt the island's image and its business sector.

"I think it could deter either tourists or people coming here to start up businesses", he said after a ceremony to launch the site at Silicon Island.

The site (www.muggah.org) features information about the mammoth problem, including a three-minute video shot on site.

There's also information about JAG's structure, achievements, minutes and meetings, and copies of every health and environmental study that's been completed.

The Web site also shows maps and pictures of the unsightly mess in downtown Sydney.

Mr. Druker says his group will lobby every level of government and funding agency to shut down the site.

"I believe we should move quickly to get that out of here but I don't see how this helps, having a Web site and advertising it to the world. ... I don't see how it helps us to achieve that goal", he said.

He said the board, by its position, is not denying that the toxic sites exist.

"You don't have to advertise your pimples or warts", he said.

Carl Buchanan, chairman of JAG, is also disappointed with the board of trade's position.

He said the group is very proud of the work it has accomplished.

"To deny it's in our community is wrong. We want to clean it up, and we want people to know we're cleaning it up", Mr. Buchanan said.

The toxic sites were created from over 100 years of steelmaking in downtown Sydney.

The tar ponds contains more than 700,000 tonnes of sludge that contains volatile organics, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals.

The toxins at the coke ovens site are believed to have reached as deep as the bedrock, some 60 metres below.

Mr. Buchanan said to avoid talking about the toxic sites won't help solve the problem.

"It's wrong not to mention it to people. Plus, we need support from the federal and provincial governments ... we have to let people know what we're dealing with, good or bad, and to seek their assistance financially and their help otherwise."

More than $15 million has been spent by JAG since it began looking for a solution in 1996. Volunteers have given more than 30,000 hours to define the process and the projects to be undertaken in the gradual cleanup.

Copyright © 1999 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.