Feds get to work on Rock Bay cleanup in Victoria

The federal government has tendered a contract to clean up thousands of tonnes of polluted soil at Rock Bay in Victoria's Upper Harbour.

A coal gasification plant was built on the site in 1862 and seeped chemicals and tar into the bay and surrounding land until it closed in the 1950s.

Two stages of remediation work were completed at the site between 2004 and 2006, removing more than 200,000 tonnes of contaminated soil at a cost of more than $50 million.

The final remediation stage involves several vacant parcels of industrial land that border Rock Bay, and the installation of a temporary steel dam across the bay's entrance. Sea water will then be pumped out so excavators can get at the contaminated seabed below, said Sau Sau Liu, Transport Canada spokesperson.

The cleanup costs will be shared between the federal and provincial governments and B.C. Hydro, the latter being the successor to Victoria Gas and B.C. Electric. B.C. Hydro has contributed $18.8 million for the current stage of remediation costs, Lau said.

Last year, Victoria MP Murray Rankin pushed then-federal transportation minister Denis Lebel to guarantee funding for the final phase of Rock Bay clean-up.

Work is expected to begin in April and be completed by January 2016, according to government tender documents.

The Songhees and Esquimalt Nations will then assume ownership of a portion of the remediated land as part of a $2.5-million purchase agreement.

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