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Soil testing on LPH property raises concerns over future of green space

Infrastructure Ontario says it's preparing for the eventual disposition of surplus land.

THUNDER BAY — The appearance of a work crew with drilling equipment on the walking trails behind the former Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital has raised the antennae of a citizens group that wants to protect green space.  

A team from a consulting engineering firm showed up this week and drilled three holes, placed pipes in the holes, then left nine barrels labelled "soil" beside the trails.

The land is owned by the provincial government.

A spokesperson for Infrastucture Ontario, which manages the property, told Tbnewswatch "sampling and testing activities are taking place to allow for informed decisions" related to its eventual disposition.

She said the government is following the normal process for the disposal of lands, and is conducting "due diligence toward maximizing future use."

The LPH site was among the properties identified in the province's December 2018 announcement that it planned to accelerate the sale of surplus properties around Ontario.

Friends of the LPH Greenspace has lobbied for years for the protection of that portion of the LPH grounds that contains the trails people use year-round for hiking, walking and cycling.

The group has suggested there is plenty of room for development in the eastern portion of the site along Algoma Street.

Spokesperson Len Maki said Wednesday they're "keeping an eye on the situation."

Maki believes the government plans to make the property as sale-ready as possible.

He said that over the decades, the wooded portion of the LPH grounds was likely used as an unofficial dumpsite for all kinds of materials, possibly including hazardous substances.   

Before stricter regulations were put in place, Maki said, there was a laissez-faire attitude about depositing industrial and household wastes on undeveloped land, especially in the 1940s and 1950s.

A city representative told Tbnewswatch he understands the testing is related to a tank that was buried on the property years ago. 

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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