No one’s been hired to do the job yet, but the City of Hamilton says the clean-up of Randle Reef will begin this summer. What’s beneath the water is a mountain of coal tar, a by-product of steel-making. It looks like thick, black toxic sludge, it’s not pleasant to the eye or to the nose, but Greg Slater, a geography and earth sciences professor at McMaster University, has studied coal tar, and says it has it’s uses.
“They do use coal tar in medicinal product for psoriasis.” he says. It is also used in certain types of medicinal shampoo. Externally, it’s used to treat wood for railway ties or to seal pavement. “If you’ve ever tarred your driveway,” says Slater “that’s essentially coal tar.”
It does contain a high volume of polycyclic aromatic hdyrocarbons making it toxic “in terms of a chromic exposure kind of way”. And that is exactly what has been sitting at the bottom of Randle Reef for the past century.
At the bottom of Randal Reef, there is enough coal tar sediment to fill first Ontario Centre 3 times over. The plan since 2012, is to create a giant cap to cover the major collection of coal tar on the Reef floor. The idea is that by covering this major source, the water quality will being to improve over time.
Bids to do the job initially came in way over budget, but Environment Canada has since altered the plan. Today at a Greater Bay sub committee meeting Mayors Eisenberger of Hamilton and Goldring of Burlington were told to expect to have a contractor by this summer.
Mark Bainbridge of the City of Hamilton says that “the real success here is that we’ll have visible in water work started in 2015 and that is the goal; that is the target.”