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Sydney Tar Ponds snag top remediation honour at 2012 Brownie Awards

EcoLog, 11/9/2012 9:48:00 AM

Nova Scotia’s (N.S.’s) Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens have won best overall project at the 2012 Brownie Awards, which recognize excellence in remediation across Canada.

The controversial and hazardous site — now part of Cape Breton — had been home to a mill that churned out nearly half of Canada’s steel production in the early 1900s. The mill used coke ovens to allow for a fuel with few impurities and high carbon content. It left 99 hectares with more than a million tonnes of toxic sludge in the heart of the province.  

The Canadian Urban Institute’s (CUI) 2012 Brownie Awards, sponsored by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., “recognizes leadership, innovation and environmental sustainability in brownfields redevelopment across Canada,” the institute says.

In an October 2012 press release about the Tar Ponds win at the Brownie Awards, CUI states that “through extensive public consultation and stakeholder engagement, [the remediation project] has helped develop a future land use for the largest contaminated site in the country that is comprehensive and includes both short-term and long-term development strategies. This project has, and will continue to have, an important impact on the local economy, in addition to the health and environmental benefits.”

The Sierra Club of Canada once called the area the largest contaminated site in North America. For years, the Canadian Cancer Society warned that Nova Scotians suffered the highest rates of cancers in the country, with those in Cape Breton the highest in the province.  

After years of delays, Public Works and Government Services Canada teamed up with the Nova Scotia government in 2007 to inject $400 million worth of remediation work into the Sydney Tar Ponds. The plan was to solidify the toxic sludge using a solidification/stabilization with cement method.

The first phase of the project was completed in mid-December 2009 and work continued with Phase 2 in the spring of 2010. Eventually the area will be covered with an impermeable barrier, soil, and finally grass.

Parts of the restored site may eventually be used for recreational purposes.

Project officials say the last section of an engineered cap of clay and soil will be installed at the tar Ponds by the end of November 2012, a full year ahead of schedule.

Up to $20 million has been set aside to develop the downtown recreation area, with an entertainment venue and parking in months and years to come.


Best large-scale project: SOLEfood Farm, Vancouver, for interim brownfield use as urban agriculture.

Best small-scale project: Underpass Park, Toronto.

Public realm: Flood protection landform, Toronto.

Brownfielder of the year: Lois E. Jackson, Mayor of the Corporation of Delta, B.C. who has been a tireless and vocal advocate for brownfield issues as Mayor of Delta, as well as in her capacity as chair of Metro Vancouver.

Category-specific awards were also awarded to the following projects:

Category 1 – Legislation, policy and program development

Smarter Niagara Incentives Program (SNIP) – Niagara Region, Ont.

Category 2 – Sustainable remediation technologies and technological innovation

Sustainable remediation of former aerospace manufacturing facility for future residential use in Montreal suburb – Montreal

Category 3 – Financing, risk management and partnerships

Village Suites Oshawa – Oshawa, Ont.

Category 4 – Excellence in project development: Building scale

CCOC Beaver Barracks Redevelopment – Ottawa

Category 5 – Excellence in project development: Neighbourhood scale

George Brown College Waterfront Health Sciences Campus – Toronto

Category 6 – Communications, marketing and public engagement

FCM Brownfield Capacity Building Tools – Ottawa

Category 7 – Individual achievement

Lois E. Jackson – Mayor, the Corporation of Delta, B.C.

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