Labrador Dump to be converted to Wetland

As reported by the CBC, The Canadian Department of National Defence is cleaning up an old dump in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Crews are working to clean up the old dump used by the 5 Wing Goose Bay base, and will be creating an engineered wetland to filter out potential contaminants in the soil.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a town of 8,000 people in the located in in the central part of Labrador on the coast of Lake Melville and the Grand River, near the North Atlantic Ocean.

This kind of wetland differs from others that focus on preserving at-risk species of ducks and waterfowl, says Lori Whalen, contaminated sites manager with the Department of National Defence.

“An engineered wetland is a passive designed wetland that is meant to be part of a remedial system, so it’s actually acting like a filter,” she said.

Lori Whalen, contaminated sites manager with the Department of National Defence (Photo Credit: Gary Moore/CBC)

The site was used as the main dump for 5 Wing Goose Bay, and Whalen said the pollution is mainly a legacy of the American Air Force when they used the base in the mid- to late 1900s.

At that time, Whalen said, there were not environmental regulations in place to ensure things were disposed of properly.

“We have material from domestic waste, construction debris, barrels that would have contained fuels and lubricating materials, even vehicles … that were just thrown over the bank,” Whalen said.

The Goose Bay Remediation Program has a $13.5-million cost and is part of a larger federal government program to clean up contaminated sites around Canada.

A majority of the work will be done this summer, National Defence said, and while it continues, people are being asked to steer clear of the site.

Whalen said this project should help ease concerns in the community over the years that pollution from the base could be affecting the water.

“The extensive sampling programs that we’ve done over the past 20 years points out that drinking water is safe for consumption,” Whalen said.

“The surface water that’s flowing through the culverts off site is below the appropriate criteria and we haven’t seen any issues in the ground water as well.”

Aerial view of the Goose Bay remediation project

Meanwhile, people in the community like John Hickey, who has been pushing for the base’s cleanup since he was mayor in the early 2000s, said there’s plenty more to be done.

“When it comes to the environment, we’ll never be satisfied,” said Hickey, who was also an MHA for the area.

“We have to ensure now that, while this work is being done, other work that needs to be done is identified and is cleaned up.”

But Hickey said he is happy to see this site getting the attention it deserves.

“This is going to be, I think, a very nice place when it’s finished and completed,” Hickey said.

“I think you’ll see a lot of waterfowl and things moving in to the area, which is all good for our community.”

CN sued by Mattagami First Nation over oil spills

As reported in Timmins Today, the Mattagami First Nation, a northern Ontario Indigenous community, is suing CN Rail for alleged environmental and cultural damage caused by two 2015 derailments that led to significant oil spills.

The Mattagami First Nation alleges in its statement of claim that the spills near Gogama, Ont., damaged the local environment and surrounding waterways.

The $30 million suit alleges that the damage, in turn, has created health risks for the population and crippled community members’ ability to observe their Indigenous traditions including fishing, hunting and gathering.

It says the two oil spills, which took place in February and March 2015, collectively poured millions of litres of oil into the area around Gogama, which is about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury, Ont.

Transportation Safety Board inspectors assess the site and the damaged cars in the train derailment near Gogama, Ont. (TSB)

CN declined to comment on the filing, adding it is committed to cleaning up environmental damage caused by the derailments.

Mattagami’s allegations have not been proven in court.

The First Nation claimed the 2015 spills impacted many facets of life for community members.

“Mattagami First Nation members have suffered stress, distress, anxiety and worry as a result of the contamination of the land, waters, plants and animals on which they rely,” reads the First Nation’s statement of claim, which was filed in March but served to CN on Monday.

The suit alleges negligence from CN and claims the rail company breached its standard of care when conducting operations ranging from track maintenance to staff training. It also alleges CN has created a corporate culture that valued speed over safety.

Alberta Proposing to allow Cities to Tax Vacant Brownfields

The Alberta Government recently released proposed changes to the Alberta Municipal Act that, if enacted, would allow for municipalities to tax vacant non-residential property at a higher rate than occupied properties.  The proposal is viewed as a means to spur the development of brownfield properties.

As reported in the Calgary Sun, Edmonton city council is behind the proposal, citing concerns that empty commercial buildings bring down a neighbourhood.  Municipal councillors in Calgary are split on the proposal.

Evan Woolley, a Calgary Councillor, was quoted in the Calgary Sun saying, “I have no interest in raising a new tax on property that can’t be developed. We already know how much property is vacant downtown and raising taxes will only make things worse.”

Calgary Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell disagrees with her colleague, arguing that raising taxes on business owners who are bringing down the property values for the rest of the community can be an effective way to encourage them to either use the land, or sell it to someone who will.  “We see contaminated sites in high profiles areas, particularly with old gas stations. There’s no incentive to develop it and if it was taxed on highest and best use that would encourage the owner to actually make the most out of it instead of keeping it there as an eyesore,” said Farrell in the Calgary Sun.

Farrell emphasizes that even if the province gives the city power, they won’t necessarily use it, but it’ll be another tool the city can access if they want.

The province hopes to have the amendments come into force prior to October’s municipal election.

The abandoned Eamon’s Camp land in Calgary, Alberta on January 12, 2012. (Photo Credit: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald)