Monster coal-tar tank on old roundhouse stalls building Contamination

Eric Morse –
Construction of a 5-storey data processing centre on the site of the former parking lot just south of the public library distribution centre at Parliament and Front streets is experiencing some delays in view of greater than expected soil contamination levels found during excavation.

The announcement was made by area Councillor Pam McConnell’s office at an April 2 meeting of the Corktown Residents’ and Business Association.

In mid-2012, an exchange of lands was completed between the city and the Bresler family concern whereby properties on the First Parliament site were swapped for the library distribution centre and the parking lot to the south of it. Since the land had been used by heavy industry for many years (the First Parliament site itself being occupied variously by the Midland Railway Roundhouse and the Consumers Gas complex) some degree of contamination was expected—but when excavation for the data centre began, an old masonry brick holding tank with an earth bottom was unearthed containing coal tar residue and contaminated material. The tank has a capacity of about 625,000 gallons.

When it was unearthed during soil removal on March 11, there was what McConnell’s office described as a minor release of noxious fumes and a spike in emissions.

Work on the site was immediately suspended while Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and Toronto Public Health (TPH) personnel went in to assess toxicity levels and decide on remediation levels. When work resumes, strict monitoring protocols will be in place, and construction personnel will be provided with remote monitoring devices.

McConnell’s spokesman told The Bulletin that the assessment process should be concluding around press time. A new remediation plan will be required.

McConnell’s office advised the Corktown group that the decontamination process might result in occasional odours in the area but not in any level of toxic threat.

Remediation will take several months, with dozens of truckloads of material to be removed each day. The city will be monitoring the air in real time “to compare results with applicable provincial standards and health benchmarks,” a city release explains. Dust mitigation and odour control protocols will also be followed.

For information, contact the MoE spills action centre at (800) 268-6060. For health concerns, contact the TPH environmental response team at (416) 392-7685.