November 19, 2007

Ottawa commits $30M to clean up toxic sediments in Hamilton Harbour

The federal government of Canada has committed $30 million to help clean up contaminated sediment in Hamilton Harbour's Randle Reef. With the total cost of the cleanup projected at $90 million, it is expected that the Ontario government, along with municipal and local partners will each contribute one-third of the remainder.

Hamilton Harbour is one of ten Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) in Canada and is the largest, most severely contaminated of the Canadian AOCs. Remediation of Randle Reef represents the principal environmental challenge facing the harbour.

Randle Reef is an underwater deposit of 630,000 cubic metres of coal tar originating over many years from industrial operations that have since closed operations. Heavily contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), this site is second only to the Sydney Tar Ponds as a Canadian site contaminated with this compound. The eight-year cleanup should begin in 2008 and be completed by 2016.

The project will consist of construction of a 9.5-hectare containment facility, made of double-lined steel walls with a clay bottom. It will be built around the area with the heaviest contamination and be used to store the less contaminated sediment dredged from the surrounding area. Once dredging is complete, the containment facility will be capped with clean fill. Its lifespan is projected to be 200 years. Upon remediation, two-thirds of the area will become a shipping pier and the rest a naturalized shoreline.

This approach of confined disposal and beneficial use is standard. It has been used in the Netherlands and is being proposed in many European cases on a much larger scale.

Cleaning up Hamilton Harbour will advance the region's economic competitiveness through expanded port facilities and shoreline redevelopment. In 2007, a research study by York University estimated the net benefits (environmental, social and economic) of cleaning up Randle Reef at $126 million over 25 years.

The chosen method for dealing with the contaminated sediment in Randle Reef was developed in consultation with stakeholders, including the Hamilton Port Authority, the Ontario Ministry of Environment, the city of Hamilton, the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, the Bay Area Restoration Council, Hamilton Steel (formerly Stelco) and the public.

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