DCN ARCHIVES

April 10, 2007

Environment

Moncton brownfield a success story

TORONTO

By all accounts, the Moncton Shops railway facility district was a mess. But, as a Toronto brownfields conference heard last week, proper remediation can make the worst nightmare go away.

The 249-acre site dates back to 1906, when the Inter-Colonial Railway (later CN Rail) used it for a railway marshalling yard and repair shops.

Over the years, as Moncton prospered, the Moncton Shops became increasingly integral to the city.

However, the regional economy slowed down and CN Rail eventually closed the site.

In 1996, a passage of sorts marked a new beginning. The federal government handed responsibility for the property to the Canada Lands Corporation, a Crown corporation that manages the development and sale of federal properties.

The CLC, in turn, quickly discovered it had badly polluted land on its hands — heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil, degreasing solvent in the groundwater, and wood wastes and other debris all over the place.

Now, more than a decade later, The Moncton Shops Project is hailed as one of Canada’s most successful brownfields redevelopments.

The site is fully cleaned up, it houses a business and technology park and professional-quality sports facilities, and new residential units are being developed.

Speaking to a mix of industry and municipal officials at the Brownfields Financing, Liability and P3 (public-private partnership) Solutions Summit last week, CLC corporate environmental director Don MacCallum said it took considerable effort to get the job done.

More than 8,000 soil samples revealed that one-fifth of the property was severely contaminated.

“It got to such a high level that we didn’t have contaminated soils, we had ore concentrates,” MacCallum said, pointing to a map showing the location of a landfill on the site, itself.

Remediation cost more than $50 million and lasted 10 years.

Crews reused and recycled materials wherever they could. Concrete found new life as a road base and facilitating drainage, highly-contaminated soils were treated and contained, and heavy metals such as copper, lead and zinc were sent to a nearby smelter for processing and reclamation.

However, a crucial factor was engaging the community.

MacCallum said project leaders saw local citizens as key stakeholders and took their views seriously.

“The driving force for this project was public perception of the property,” MacCallum said, describing local concerns about pollution.

Project managers established a community roundtable and held open houses, site tours, regular briefings and design charettes, and they approved many recommendations that came forward.

MacCallum said he was particularly heartened when an older woman told him she lived near the site and appreciated finally being able to walk across it.

“All the good science, all the good engineering, all the good planning — if these aren’t accepted by the public, then everything you do is for nought,”

Moncton city manager Al Strang said the project turned a potential nightmare into a prized benefit.

“Moncton had an opportunity to be a ghost town, and fortunately we had the spirit where people said we had to do something.”

Strang said the public process helped guide city council to developing a business park and the kind of professional-quality sports facilities that have helped generate significant tax revenue and seen the city host national and international competitions.

“The New York Islanders will be coming to Moncton next year for their training camp,” Strang said.

“We rejuvenated an eyesore in the community into a source of pride.”

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