Over the next two decades, Waterfront Toronto will breathe new life into 800 hectares of contaminated, once-industrial land. The government agency calls this revitalization project "one of the largest urban brownfield remediation projects in the world". Last fall, Waterfront Toronto announced plans to create a waste site near Cherry Beach to manage contaminated soil from the development project. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper raised concerns about this waste site, and Waterfront Toronto listened. The agency worked with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and the Ministry of the Environment to protect Lake Ontario. This week, we bring you an update on the Cherry Beach waste management facility.
Last March, we asked "Who wants an industrial waste site near Cherry Beach?" when Waterfront Toronto sought permission from the Ontario government to create a waste site on Unwin Avenue. It would be across the street from Lake Ontario Park, the outer harbour sailing and paddling clubs, Cherry Beach, and the Waterfront Trail.
The waste site would stockpile contaminated soil pulled from the ground as part of the waterfront redevelopment process. Waterfront Toronto hoped to clean the soil onsite and then re-use it in revitalization projects.
We were concerned about the level of contamination in the soil. Background documents suggested it could be contaminated with chemicals and metals vastly exceeding every benchmark for soil use in the country. The soil would be hauled in and piled up as often as necessary – including on Saturdays – for the next twenty years.
We were concerned about the fate of all that soil. Waterfront Toronto hoped to clean it up at the waste site and re-use it in revitalization projects. But the cleanup technology had not been selected or tested, and no one knew if it would work. The worst-case scenario was a twenty year old mountain of contaminated soil, concentrated at a temporary site, right across the street from one of the city's most popular watersports areas.
After a handful of submissions to Waterfront Toronto, an independent report from a commissioned expert, and an open dialogue, Waterfront Toronto and the Ministry of the Environment created a licence for a pilot project that addresses virtually all of our environmental concerns:
Certificates of Approval for the site limit the amount of contaminated soil that can be brought there during the pilot project.
Certificates of Approval for the site are limited to the pilot project (two-years).
Any new, long-term Certificates of Approval for the site will be subject to additional public consultation (including possible appeal) under the Environmental Bill of Rights.
Testing for important contaminants (PCBs, radiation) will happen before the soil is moved to the waste site. All soil will be tested for at least 125 different contaminants.
There will be a Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and it will have access to all the sampling data.
Piles of contaminated soil will be covered at all times, unless they are being actively used.
Waterfront Toronto also re-graded the site so that it slopes away from the nearby Lake Ontario channel. Runoff from rain is directed to a collection pond and re-used as process water and to manage dust onsite.
From September to November, Waterfront Toronto ran its soil washing tests. About 20,000 cubic metres of soil was washed by DEC and Tetra Tech. Each company set up a mini-soil processing facility at the site. Results from the tests should be available in late winter or early spring. With that data, Waterfront Toronto will be able to continue revitalizing contaminated sites and protecting the lake in the process.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper toured the site twice in the fall. You can see photos from the tours here.
Read LOW’s most recent submission on air emissions here.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s first submission on the waste site is available here.
Watch Waterfront Toronto's video on their Pilot Soil Recycling project.