Sydney Tar Ponds

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

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Located in Nova Scotia, Canada, the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens Sites are the result of more than 100 years of steel production. The process of turning coal into coke resulted in a toxic soup of deadly chemicals, mercury and other heavy metals. The breadth of environmental impact included more than 1.1 million tons (1 million tonnes) of contaminated soil and sediment spread over three major sites — the North Tar Pond, the South Tar Pond and the former Coke Ovens Site — spanning a total of 274.1 acres (100 hectares) within a complex marine and estuarine environment surrounded by an urbanized setting.

Faced with the challenge of cleaning up one of Canadas largest contaminated industrial sites, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency turned to AECOM to develop a remediation design strategy to support the agency’s vision of delivering the CA$400-million (US$393-million) project based on the principles of sustainable remediation.

AECOM managed the remedial design and associated construction oversight and administration services to ensure the clean-up work incorporated the principles of sustainable remediation. Our primary remedial solution, solidification/stabilization with cement, for in-situ treatment of the contaminated sediments, helped to maximize the use of the local materials and ensured the future use of the area as a designated urban park, in addition to meeting remediation performance criteria. We were also active in managing other areas of the project, such as construction sequencing and the transport and handling of project materials, which achieved reductions in air emissions, offsite waste disposal and associated site impacts like erosion control and demolition activities.

Client Benefits:

  • Identified a new risk factor to the project budget and schedule;
  • Innovative, alternative approach to sediment stabilization allowed the project to stay on time and on budget; and
  • Successful transition from the Design to Construction phase.

These efforts have supported the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency’s work in the areas of social and economic opportunities. Initiatives focusing on knowledge and skills transfer have helped local construction companies, including First Nations groups, advance their professional expertise and bring local economic benefit and long-term growth. The area’s redevelopment and future use also provides important social returns, such a better health benefits, through remediation of the contaminated site and the overall quality of life for local residents.

Awards and Recognition

  • Environmental Business Journal project merit award – 2013
  • Consulting Engineers of Ontario Award of Merit in Environment – 2013
  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Award of Excellence in Environment Category – 2013
  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Tree for Life Award for Environmental Stewardship – 2013
  • Co-winner of the 2013 AECOM Excellence Award for Innovation.
  • ReNew Canada’s “Top 100 Biggest Infrastructure Projects in Canada” (2008-2013)
  • AECOM CEO Excellence Award finalist for Core Values, Ethics – 2012
  • Canadian Urban Institute Project of the Year – 2012
  • Best Overall Project Award at the Canadian Urban Institute’s (CUI) 2012 Canadian Brownfields conference, Making Great Places
  • Federal Canadian Contaminated Site Remediation Signature Project
  • Keynote presentations and papers at the following remediation conferences and technical forums:  Federal Canadian Contaminated Sites Workshops, RemTech, WaterTech, RemEast, Battelle Remediation Symposia, Nova Scotia Land Reclamation Conference, Railroad Environmental Conference, Electric Power Research Institute, the Western Dredge Association.
  • The project has been the focus of feature articles in Civil Engineering, HazMat Magazine, andConstruction Today.
    The technical S/S Pilot Scale Program was a feature story in 2008 on the Discovery Channel and was voted feature story of the year.


Public Works and Government Services Canada, Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, Nova Scotia Government