Nova Scotia

Summer tar ponds smell promised to improve

The agency in charge of the Sydney tar ponds cleanup said the odour coming from the project won't be as strong this summer.

The agency in charge of the Sydney tar ponds cleanup said the odour coming from the project won't be as strong this summer.

Last year, the cleanup stirred up some nasty smells through Sydney's downtown.

The reek of sewage comes from the pockets of raw waste that ran directly into the tar ponds for years.

It's the polluted mess left over from decades of steel-making.

Officials from the Sydney Tar Ponds Remediation Project are promising a more aggressive approach to tackle odours.

Sickening smell

Residents in Sydney found the smell from the tar ponds cleanup hard to take.

Alec Oursen, who's lived in the north end of Sydney his entire life, described the odour as "like a sickening smell."

"Could be a mixture of metal and rotten eggs I guess," said Oursen.

This year, the cleanup of the tar ponds moves up the harbour, even closer to Oursen's house.

"Might be a lot of people get sick from the smell," said Oursen.

The smell is generated when heavy machinery stirs up the tar ponds sediment to mix it with cement. That disturbs all the chemicals and raw sewage that's collected in the ponds for decades.

The agency that's cleaning up the tar ponds received dozens of complaints last summer.

Project manager Donnie Burke predicts fewer odours.

"Hopefully a vast improvement over where we would have been last year," said Burke.

He said it's partly because the cleanup is moving to the north pond, where there's less sewage.

But also because the agency plans to use foams and other suppressants — even before any smells are detected.

"You know, we're getting a little more proactive as opposed to being reactive," said Burke.

The good news, Burke said, is that the smells may be annoying, but they're not dangerous.

Experts spent the winter analyzing last year's emissions.

Burke said they were all well within environmental and health guidelines.

The $400-million project is expected to be complete in 2014.