By RENE J. ROY
PORT AUX BASQUES – Even though the town has relocated its equipment to the new municipal garage in Grand Bay West, there is still a lot of work to be done at the old location. Sitting across from Town Hall on Main Street, the old depot is no longer actively in use, but there are questions about what to do with it. Council has discussed the matter during its last two council meetings, held on Jan. 13 and Feb. 2.
In the January meeting, Coun. Jim Lane observed that there are numerous materials and equipment that could be easily put to use in other facilities. He believes that the Channel-Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department might be able to re-purpose some of the structure to use for constructing its new smoke house training facility.
However, prior to anything being done, the entire lot must undergo thorough testing to determine what, if any, environmental impact that 42 years of use may have had. Since 1978, the lot has been used as a fuel station, a salt facility, vehicle storage and more. Over the years, it’s almost a certainty that contaminants have leached into the soils below.
The Town intends to have a study done through a partnership with Grenfell College and Memorial University. The study will be able to assess the levels of petroleum and heavy metal contaminants that may have leached into the soil. Ultimately, the goal is to turn the area into a green space, which means the ground must be free of these contaminants and there is no chance it will leach into the groundwater.
Bulk soil samples will be collected from various spots on the site, and then those samples will be sent for laboratory testing to determine the exact contents. The study will also determine the feasibility of compost, earthworms and grass for the bio-remediation of the soil. The results of the experimentation will be used to design a pilot project for the site.
“The main goal of the research is to develop and test a sustainable green remediation technology to bring down the contaminant levels in a hydrocarbon and heavy metal contaminated site so that it can be used for public use,” said Mayor John Spencer during the Feb. meeting.
The project will use electromagnetic induction to determine the depth of contamination, and the types of chemicals that need to be dealt with. It is expected that beginning with taking samples, through to the testing, and up to the process of re-mediating the soil will take approximately two years.
Town Manager Leon MacIsaac also told Council there exists the possibility that the old depot may simply be too contaminated for and public green space.
“They may come back and recommend that we ought to put a one meter cap over the existing grounds, and re-mediate it through plantation, and that would be the failsafe.”
Although the current council envisions the area as a green space for residents to enjoy, all they can do is offer recommendation and guidance said Spencer via e-mail.
“This will not be the mandate of the present Council given this is an election year. The new council elected in September will be charged with setting a strategy based on the work of previous Council. I remember discussions on a new municipal garage surfacing when I was first elected in 1993; 2020 marked the opening of this magnificent structure. Don’t really want to talk about taking that much time but we need to take our time to get it right,” noted Spencer via e-mail.