After more than a decade, one of the largest remediation projects in the province is finally complete.
Earlier this week, Transport Canada announced the completion of the remediation of the Rock Bay site at the corner of Pembroke and Shore streets in Victoria after 13 years.
“We’ve come a long way to improving the life for people living in Victoria,” said Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. “It has environmental affects that went well beyond this particular location…this is a very significant moment.”
The Rock Bay site and adjacent property owned by the B.C. Hydro Power Authority was once the location of a former coal gasification plant that operated from the 1860s to the early 1950s. The gas production resulted in contamination to the site’s soil, groundwater and harbour sediments with hydrocarbons, metals and other substances.
During phases one and two of the remediation, which began in 2004, a majority of the site was remediated, including 50,300 tonnes of hazardous waste soils, 74,100 tonnes of non-hazardous waste soils and 78,500 tonnes of contaminated soils above commercial land use levels. Approximately 250 tonnes of hazardous waste were removed in 2009 at two sediment hotspots at Barclay Point, at the head of the site.
The final stage, which began in spring 2014 and was completed earlier this year, involved draining the bay and digging more then 10 metres below ground surface. Crews removed 88,000 tonnes of contaminated soil and sediment from the remaining uplands and the sediments in the bay itself.
“The bay looks much better now and we’ve removed all that contamination,” said project lead Ian Chatwell.
They’ve also installed a number of features that will provide better habitat to wildlife. A blue heron has returned to the site’s planting beds and Chatwell hopes the remediation will bring crabs, small fish, sea otters and other wildlife back to the area.
The site, which was once the possible site for a sewage treatment centre to serve Greater Victoria, will be purchased by the Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation.
Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas said there are currently no plans for the site after they take possession, which will likely be in December.
“For us to be able to acquire the property opens a big future for our next generations . . . This is something new for us. It’s exciting,” he said.
It cost more than $50 million to remediate the site, which was funded by B.C. Hydro and the federal government’s contaminated sites action plan, which provides funding to assess and remediate federal contaminated sites.
The government has since remediated roughly 13,000 sites, but thousands still remain across the country.
Garneau reaffirmed the federal government is committed to cleaning up the remaining sites over the years.