Victoria's Rock Bay area closer to final cleanup

The final $33.5-million contract to build a temporary dam and wrap up a decade-long effort to rid Rock Bay’s land and sea bed of toxic materials has been awarded to Quantum Murray LP.

By the time the remediation is complete, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin is hoping that a new area plan will be in place for the property at the northwest of downtown. First, the city wants to talk to the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, which are taking ownership of land facing the bay once it is cleaned up. Members of the area community will also be heard from.

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“There are some wonderful opportunities,” he said Tuesday. “We want to see that land get into play as quickly as possible.”

Once the latest stage is wrapped up, 1.71 hectares of federal land will go to the First Nations. The $2.8-million deal will be finalized when the remediation is finished.

Fortin said he understands there’s a desire to provide a place of work for First Nations members. There are many options. Ground-floor uses will have to be commercial or industrial, but could be topped with housing.

He suggested that something like Vancouver’s False Creek might fit into the area, but cautioned that there are industrial operations nearby. B.C. Hydro is also remediating its adjacent Rock Bay lands.

Quantum Murray starts preparations next month on the third stage to remediate Transport Canada’s property. Site work is slated to be finished by Nov. 15, 2015, the department said in a statement.

Quantum Murray is a Canadian environmental services company, headquartered in Toronto and with a Victoria office. The contract is worth $33,482,763, including taxes, the statement said.

A coffer dam (a temporary watertight dam) will be built in Rock Bay to expose the sea bed. This will allow Quantum Murray to excavate and remove contaminated soil and sediment resulting from historical uses dating back 150 years.

B.C. Hydro and Transport Canada have been working together to clean up their neighbouring lands at Rock Bay. They carried out the bulk of the work between 2004 and 2006. More than 200,000 tonnes of contaminated soil has been removed and more materials will come out.

This project has turned into one of B.C.’s priciest cleanups. To date, Hydro has spent $51.8 million and Transport Canada has spent $19 million.

The Rock Bay site was used for a coal gasification plant from 1862 to 1952 by Victoria Gas and B.C. Electric, which eventually became B.C. Hydro. In 1883, the City of Victoria received approval to use the head of the bay as a dump site. A tannery and sawmills were also located around the bay, a 2004 government document states. Infilling, several metres deep, contributed to the contamination as well.

Coal tar and coal tar components, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are the main contaminants, the document said. Other contaminants include cyanide, hydrocarbon fuels, such as Bunker C, ammonia liquors and heavy metals.

Contaminated materials will be taken off site for treatment and disposal, Transport Canada said.

Soil, sediment and water quality will be monitored as the project progresses to make sure that objectives are reached and that the surrounding environment is not affected. Work includes a neighbourhood air quality management plan, the statement said.

The sediment and shoreline will be restored as specified in a habitat restoration plan approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Remediation work on Hydro’s 0.4-hectare site at Pembroke and Store streets is expected to take a few more years, spokesman Ted Olynyk said. After the remediation is completed, Hydro will divest itself of the property. Details are still to be worked out.

cjwilson@timescolonist.comm

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