Sydney Tar Ponds to get a facelift – by Emily Jackson (Toronto Star – November 25, 2011)

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Sydney, N.S., will soon boast its own version of Central Park, with one small caveat — it will be built on top of a former hazardous waste site. The park will mark the final phase in the $400 million cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds, pools of toxic waste caused by more than 100 years of runoff from a steel plant.

Controversies surrounding the cleanup will linger for years, but all parties involved seem excited to move on from the toxic mess and finally transform the space into something positive. “At the end, the community was tired of fighting about the actual cleanup mechanism,” said Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor John Morgan.

The polluted sludge was mixed with cement, covered with an “impermeable” cap, and then buried under the soil where the park will be built. While people argued if this was the best way to remediate the waste (many wanted it to be burned), there has been very little bickering over what to do with the land once it’s actually clean, Morgan explained.

“I think the community is going to be very happy about once it’s complete,” he said. “It will be a great transformation.”

The project, which has taken seven years so far, is expected to be completed by 2014.

The plans for the park include an outdoor concert venue, trails, bike paths and bridges connecting separate communities.

This week, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency awarded a $1.48 million contract to design the park.

Although the Cape Breton regional municipality has a population of only 105,000, the comparison of Sydney’s yet-to-be-named park to Central Park is “quite apt,” said Alastair MacLeod, chair of the citizen’s liaison committee for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.

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