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Some contaminated soil at new art gallery site requires remediation

Gallery's executive-director says the environmental assessment doesn't worry her at this stage of the $33-million project.

THUNDER BAY — The City of Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery are working to satisfy provincial environmental assessment requirements for the art gallery's new $33-million waterfront site.

It's not completely clear how the timing of the project might be impacted, or what additional costs might be incurred. 

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Change and Parks, the city's EA has identified "some contaminated soil" around the site at the southern end of Prince Arthur's Landing.

In an email to tbnewswatch,com, Lindsay Davidson also indicated the contaminated area needs to be remediated.

The nature and scope of the contamination is not being made public as yet, however art gallery executive director Sharon Godwin said she's not worried.

A project of this kind, Godwin said, "comes with a lot of different things you have to jump through. But we have good people working on it." 

She noted that the current plan is to build the gallery on piles "so we're not removing materials...that's the reason the plan is that way."

The art gallery will lease the property from the city.

Gerry Broere, the director of the city's asset management division, said the city has completed a draft Phase 2 EA along with a draft risk assessment for the site, and that these are under review by the environment ministry.

Broere said the risk assessment provides a summary of "areas of potential environmental concerns" as well as "recommendations of mitigation measures on how to manage those areas."

Because the documents are still in draft form, Broere said, they are not being released to the public at this time.

The provincial brownfield regulation sets out the conditions for redeveloping former industrial properties. The regulation prescribes that, once any environmental concerns have been identified, soil and groundwater samples must be taken to determine the extent of the contamination. Remediation may be required to meet soil and groundwater standards for the intended new use of the property.

Davidson said the city is still considering its options for dealing with the contaminants that have been found.

The process of obtaining ministry approval may take months longer.

Broere said that after a risk assessment has been submitted, the review process can take up to four months, potentially followed by a second four-month review of any followup questions or investigations.  In any event, he expects the final paperwork will be completed no later than March 2020.

Godwin said she's feeling pretty good about the status of the project.

"Getting the go-ahead from the ministry is a long process, but we don't have to wait til the end. We've been doing this for 10 years. Everything takes longer than you imagined. Hopefully early next year, and we'll know soon when we might be starting on site."

In January 2018, Godwin identified 2021 as a tentative goal for opening the new facility.

Fundraising for the new art gallery has gone well, with about $30 million having been collected as of January of this year.

"We are reclaiming this site for the community, and I think it's really important for people to know that," Godwin said this week.









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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