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Great Lakes Article:

Liberals pledge $30 million for cleanup in harbour
Tar blob a pollution hot spot
By Peter Van Harten
The Hamilton Spectator
Published January 9, 2006

Paul Martin's Liberals -- who now find themselves trailing in election polls -- are promising $30 million for Hamilton to help get the harbour off the list of Great Lakes pollution hot spots.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Tony Valeri says the money would help cap the Randle Reef toxic coal tar blob beside Stelco's Hilton Works. It is part of the 10-year, $1-billion environmental cleanup strategy announced by Martin in Montreal on Saturday.

"When you've got hot spots identified by the International Joint Commission, you want to -- as a country committed to environmental excellence-- provide the dollars required," he said. Other parties say they're skeptical of Liberal promises of cleanup money coming at election time.

Conservative environment critic Bob Mills said the Liberals have a dismal record -- ranked 28th out of 30 countries rated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development-- in taking care of natural assets.

The proposed capping, dredging and containment of the contaminated sediments in Hamilton Harbour is expected to cost $90 million.

A nine-hectare, steel-walled island or peninsula would be created between Sherman Avenue and Wentworth Street and possibly used as a new docking pier.

Valeri said the $30 million in federal money should enable Hamilton to bring the province, the city, the port authority and other industrial stakeholders to the table with matching funds.

The new funding for Randle Reef builds on the $35 million committed for Hamilton in October for improvements to the city's wastewater treatment system, said Valeri.

Marilyn Baxter, executive director of the Bay Area Restoration Council, says she is "thrilled" with the new pledge because containment of the Randle Reef area is a high priority to get Hamilton Harbour off the list of Great Lakes hot spots by 2015.

"It's the largest contaminated sediment problem on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes," she said.

Millions of dollars from senior levels of government are needed to bring the harbour up to a minimum cleanup level and wipe out the pollution legacy created by years of dumping, neglect and inadequate standards.

The timing of the Randle Reef project would depend on when environmental assessments are completed.

Mills, the Conservative environment critic, said he is "bitter" about having to listen to repeated cleanup pledges.

The Liberals have been promising to clean up Canada's worst pollution hot spot -- the tar ponds in Sydney, N.S. -- for a decade but nothing has happened.

Mills said the Conservatives favour prioritizing all contaminated areas and committing long-term and stable funding.

"I'm certain Hamilton will rate high on the list of priorities," he said.

"You need long-term funding so that the province and municipality know where they are going and can work out agreements."

Wayne Marston, the NDP candidate running against Valeri, said the Liberals only get motivated to clean up the environment during elections.

"It's a significant issue and should have been dealt with a long, long time ago," he said. "They've had 12 years and a number of surplus budgets and now they want to spread it over another 10 years."

Jo Pavlov, the Green party candidate, said the Liberal commitment is great news and shows the Liberals are finally waking up to "green" issues in this election.

Tainted water problems at native reserves have also shown that the deplorable state of water quality in Canada should be a priority issue, she said.

"The Green party doesn't care who brings the money to the issue, so long as it deals with the things that really matter," she added.

The $1 billion promised by Martin on Saturday is spread over 10 years and includes $500 million for Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River cleanup projects.

About $25 million would go to clean up a dump site in Montreal.

About $200 million would be spent on research on the effects of human activity on ecosystems and $120 million would be spent on a cleanup at Lake Winnipeg.

pvanharten@thespec.com

905-526-3328

 

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