The discovery of some contaminated soil on the site of Sackville’s ongoing flood control project on Lorne Street will come with an estimated $400,000 in cleanup costs.
Jamie Burke, the town’s senior manager of corporate projects, explained that the contactors were about 85 per cent through construction of a large stormwater retention pond when they came across the “pocket of contaminated soil.”
“Obviously we’re not thrilled about finding contamination on the property,” he said.
The soil, which was discovered on land the town purchased from CN Rail on an “as is” basis, is reported to be contaminated with petroleum and aromatic hydrocarbons as well as heavy metals.
Upon discovery of the contamination, Burke said the contractors immediately ceased work on the site while a cleanup strategy was being determined. And while he admits this has resulted in a delay in the project, he explained that the contractor has been able to keep busy in the meantime, undertaking work on the Crescent Street crossing and starting some roadwork.
Town council authorized the additional expenditure for the cleanup this week, which will set a plan into action to remove about 9,000 tons of soil, truck it to an approved disposal facility and then monitor the site to ensure all the material was removed and provide all the necessary documentation to the provincial Department of Environment.
Seventy five per cent of the clean-up costs will be covered under the existing Clean Water and Wastewater Fund project budget so the town will need to foot about $100,000 of the additional bill.
Burke said while the town did have the option to leave the soil in place and reduce the size of the pond, that comes with the risk of the contamination migrating, which would require future cleanup costs to the town without any secured funding from other levels of government.
“The most responsible thing to do is to get the soil out of there.”
Excavation of the soil is expected to get under way on Thursday and will take approximately two to three weeks to complete, depending on the weather. Burke said the area affected is about 4,000 square metres, about a tenth of the size of the entire site.
Coun. Shawn Mesheau questioned why the engineering consultants didn’t test the CN property more extensively, seeing that the land was once considered industrial, having served as a railway hub for more than a century.
“I get the sense that due diligence wasn’t taken . . . we should have maybe dealt with this before we made the land agreement,” said Mesheau.
Burke acknowledged the town did take a risk in acquiring the CN property but explained that the site was selected as the most feasible option, from an engineering perspective, to accommodate a stormwater retention pond of that size. He said there was a geotechnical investigation done as part of the project but there was no contaminated soil found at that time.
“It’s easy to look back and say we should have done things differently, why we didn’t do this and why we didn’t do that,” he said.
“We did take a risk. Unfortunately, we had some contaminated soil and we’re very fortunate that it is only a small pocket.”