Randle Reef, located at the western end of Lake Ontario, is the most contaminated site within the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. It is a 12 hectare area located in the southwest corner of the area known as ‘Hamilton Harbour’ or ‘Burlington Bay’ and is surrounded by many heavy industries. Over the years, coal gasification, petroleum refining and steelmaking have all contributed to the accumulation of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and other toxic chemicals in the sediment. It has been compared to a “spill in slow motion” because of the continuing slow spread of the contaminants across the harbour floor.
In 2016, a $138.9 million sediment remediation project led by Environment Canada began. Construction began on a containment area built on the most contaminated 6.2 hectares next to pier 15. This ensures that the most toxic sediment will not be disturbed.
An outer wall of interlocking steel 32 meters tall will be driven 15 meters into the ground. An inner wall of 16 meters tall interlocking steel sheets driven 6 meters into the ground, with the 15 meter between the 2 walls being filled with uncontaminated material. The walls will be sealed creating an impermeable barrier. The construction of this facility is slated to be finished later this year.
Once the engineered containment facility or ECF has been completed, it will be filled with the contaminated sediment which has been dredged from the surrounding area. This dredging is expected to take place through 2018 & 2019. The sediment will then be dewatered, compressed and sealed under a multi-layered environmental cap, to be completed by 2022. The result with be a 7.5 hectare paved peninsula, a usable industrial surface, which will be managed by the Hamilton Port Authority.
The completion of this project will result in the removal of Hamilton Harbour from the list of ‘Areas of Concern in the Great Lake Region.’ It will reduce the amount and spread of contaminants through the harbour; thereby significantly improving water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. While shipping and port facilities will be enhanced, it will also allow increased recreational opportunities and promote the harbour community as a progressive place to live and work. There should be a continuation of the improvements in public amenities for people to visit and recreate in the harbour.