ALERT BAY—A Cormorant Island gravel pit filled with contaminated waste could become an attractive entry point to the Gator Gardens Ecological Park, with the help of a nearly $64,000 Brownfield Grant announced last week by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.
The grant was one of 24 issued across B.C., totaling more than $1.64 million, for abandoned, vacant, derelict or underutilized commercial and industrial properties with redevelopment potential.
The grant, worth $63,977.15, will help the village test the remaining level of contamination and establish a remediation plan for it.
The material in the former gravel pit near the entrance to the Gator Gardens boardwalk came from Petro Canada’s fuel dock when it closed in the early 1990s.
“The powers that be at the time had that material deposited in the pit, with the thought it could be remediated there,” said Michael Berry, current mayor of Alert Bay. “It was left and forgotten.”
The pit contains a “significant amount” of the material, measuring roughly 80 by 100 metres at a depth of one to one-and-a-half metres, Berry said. It is contained in a butyl rubber liner and poses no threat to the community, he stressed.
Indeed, the material, since overgrown with alders, was tested eight years ago and found to be far less toxic than when it was first deposited.
“At that time about two-thirds of the pile was pretty clean,” Berry said. “There was just one corner that was still quite contaminated.”
If new tests determine the material is cleaned to Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) level A specifications, for residential/recreational use, it could be left on site for fill for a park at the entry to Gator Gardens. If cleaned to CSR level B, or industrial grade, it could be used to cap Cormorant Island’s landfill, which has reached capacity and is no longer in use.
“If it’s not clean, the options are removing the bush off the top and flipping the pile to get some air in, innoculating it with oil-eating bacteria, or just leaving it there,” said Berry.
“The usual method is to inject it with fertilizer; that’s what nitrogen-fixing alder roots do.”