August 20-27, 2007

Ontario pledges $30M to clean up Hamilton Harbour's Randle Reef

The Ontario government will contribute $30 million toward the cleanup of Randle Reef, in Hamilton Harbour, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said last week. The province has already provided $3 million to fund the cost of the engineering design, which is expected to be completed late this year. It is anticipated that the federal government and municipal partners will each pay one-third of the remaining costs.

The Randle Reef contaminated sediment remediation project is currently going through the federal Environmental Assessment process as a comprehensive study, with Environment Canada as the proponent. If it is approved, construction could start in 2008. The province will provide funding over the eight years of the project.

Randle Reef is ranked second only to the Sydney Tar Ponds as Canada's most contaminated sediment site. High concentrations of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and heavy metals are a continuing source of contamination to the entire harbour, posing a serious health risk to human users as well as to fish and wildlife in and around it.

The contamination is a result of historical deposits of toxic coal tar and heavy metals from industry in the 1800s and 1900s. Because of its environmental degradation and loss of beneficial uses, the cleanup of Randle Reef is considered to be a top priority if Hamilton Harbour is to be delisted as an Area of Concern on the Great Lakes; it could be 2015 before this goal is reached.

The preferred remediation option is to build a containment facility around the sediment, to prevent toxic substances from spreading into the harbour. This option was selected after a lengthy process, which began in 1995. Several options were considered in consultation with an advisory group made up of 17 local stakeholder organizations. Building a containment facility, at an estimated cost of $90 million, is considered to be the most cost-effective way to contain the contaminated sediment.

The proposed project involves the creation of an engineered, dry cap dyked confined disposal facility (CDF) about 9.5 hectares (ha) in size. This would isolate and cover in-situ about 130,000 cubic metres (m3) of PAH-contaminated sediments and would contain about 500,000 m3 of additional PAH-contaminated sediments from the immediate surrounding project area, as well as other toxic sites in the harbour. The CDF would be used as a place to dispose contaminated sediment from the harbour before capping it with clean fill.

The configuration of the cap would allow for a boat channel and a commercial shipping facility through the capping zone. The proposed end use of the area would be a mix of two-thirds port activities and one-third naturalized open space.

The cleanup of Randle Reef and eventual delisting of Hamilton Harbour would not only eliminate a serious environmental problem, it would create a new, positive image for the harbour and would yield an estimated $900 million worth of economic benefits. Remediation will:

* Restore and enhance fish habitat;

* improve ecosystem health and water quality;

* provide enhanced opportunities for recreational activities in the harbour;

* increase property values in the area of the harbour; and

* attract commercial businesses to the harbourfront.

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