Hamilton’s Randle Reef remediation enters final stage as project approaches decade mark

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The last of three stages is underway for Hamilton’s Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project, the federal government has announced. 

A contract of $29.2 million was awarded to Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc. to complete the first phase of Stage 3 construction, which involves the installation of a multi-layered environmental cap as a final step to isolate contaminants over the 60-hectare site. 

According to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, the environmental cap will collect any remaining contaminated water and provide drainage for the surface layer, allowing for the consolidation of the sediment over time. 

The project, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, is expected to be completed by 2025.

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Randle Reef is considered to be the largest and most contaminated site within the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. It is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other toxic chemicals that have slowly spread across the floor of Hamilton Harbour and into the food chain of the harbour’s ecosystem. Past industrial processes such as coal gasification, petroleum refining, steel making, municipal waste, sewage, and overland drainage significantly impacted the area.

“Thanks to collaboration between all three levels of government, we’ve made fantastic progress on improving the water quality and ecosystem health here in Hamilton Harbour,” announced Lisa Hepfner, Member of Parliament for Hamilton Mountain, in a statement.

Hamilton Harbour was first identified as an Area of Concern in 1987 under the Canada–US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Cleanup costs have been estimated to be upwards of $150 million.

During the first two stages of remediation, the project managed more than 615,000 cubic metres of contaminated sediment. Stage 1 started in 2015 with the reconstruction of the adjacent Pier 15. Phase two of the remediation utilized a 6.2-hectare double-walled steel structure also referred to as an Engineered Containment Facility. Crews used a discharge pipeline to send the dredged sediment from a pump into containment.

Stage 3 also involves transferring responsibility for the facility to the Hamilton⁠–Oshawa Port Authority. Local officials estimate that the new port lands will have strong economic potential. 

“Stage 3 of the Randle Reef Remediation Project is an important step toward restoring the water quality and ecosystem health in Lake Ontario, while creating social and economic opportunities for our community,” announced Gary Carr, Halton Regional Chair, in a statement. “This final stage of the project signals a cleaner, safer, and healthier future for Hamilton Harbour and the many people who continue to enjoy it.”

To date, Canada has fully restored three Areas of Concern: Severn Sound, Collingwood Harbour and Wheatley Harbour.

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