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Case Study: Socio-Economic Considerations during a Large-Scale Remediation Project


Socio-Economic Considerations during a Large-Scale Remediation Project


Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens, Sydney, NS


One hundred years of steel and coke production resulted in >1M tonnes of contaminated soil and sediment.  Chosen remedial method included solidification/stabilization, surface capping and cut-off walls. Remediation resulted in the reclamation of 240 ac (97 ha) in Sydney’s downtown.

Regulatory Context

The longterm social, economic and environmental impact on the entire community required a community-based process for the project to be successful. Following several “false-starts”, in 1996, a Joint Action Group was formed. In 1998/99 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed and a cost-sharing agreement created between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.  In 2001, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency was created to manage the clean up effort.  In 2002-2004, the clean-up alternatives were tested and deemed successful, the JAG provided recommendations, and Environment Canada/STPA formulated the clean-up plan. In 2005, a full panel review of the clean-up plan was ordered (highest level of EIA). 

Sustainable elements/approach

After three weeks of public hearings in 2006, the Panel delivered 55 recommendations that were accepted in January 2007.  Of the 55 recommendations, there was heavy focus on socio-economic considerations:

#32 – Community involvement

#33 – Economic Benefits (local business and Labour, market skills, long-lasting)

#34 – Women’s Employment (non-traditional trades and technologies)

#35 – African NS Employment (CB Black Employment Partnership Committee)

#36-38 – Transportation/Rail

#39 – 45 – Future use

#55 – Community Liaison Committee

The stakeholders involved in this process were chosen by the Panel and included groups impacted by the industry: women, youth, aboriginal community, African NS, local business, residents.

The success of the project was dependent on the incorporation of these recommendations; thus, indicators were established. For instance, #34 could be measured as “number of women employed in a non-traditional trade”, and this could then be used when comparing different options throughout the remedial process.

Monthly Local Economic Benefits (LEB) report cards were required by contractors and consultants working on the project and STPA was required to report on progress in meeting 55 recommendations.

Value Added

The sustainable benefits of this approach include:

  • The focus on the socio-economic health of the community created the best possible environment for this challenging project to advance.  

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