Touring Randle Reef

Image of area near Randle Reef; Hamilton, July 22, 2014

For the first time in six years CHCH news cameras had a tour of Randle Reef today.

The cleanup of Canada’s most contaminated coal tar site was put on hold last month after Environment Canada announced all bids on the first phase of the project came in over the $139 million budget.

From a distance it doesn’t look that different from other sections of Hamilton Harbour. But while birds are free to roam Randle Reef, buoys mark a “no go” zone for boats.

“What can happen is as ship traffic comes through here, it can stir up the bottom causing it to move out,” explains John Hall, Hamilton Harbour remedial action plan coordinator.

Four to ten metres below the surface, the largest coal tar deposit in the country.

Hall says there is 630,000 cubic metres of contaminated sediment.

“It equates to more than three times filling the Copps Coliseum.”

The plan is to construct a large containment box that will come up to the same level as the surrounding piers.

The containment facility will be about 7.5 hectares, roughly the size of Bayfront Park.

After roughly two years of construction, surrounding toxic material will be hydraulically dredged into the container.

“It’s like a vacuum cleaner type approach where a lot of water comes us with the contaminated sediment goes through a pipe which would be submerged inside the containment facility,” says Bill Fitzgerald, VP Operations of Hamilton Port Authority.

Hall says its important to keep material isolated below water. If it were exposed, it would vaporize quickly.

“If people started to smell it in the area they would know that is a problem, and it would be.”

Once the container is built, the process is expected to take about 7 years, depending on who wins the contract.

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