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New tech might open up West Village remediation, Premier Smith says

Premier Smith said this is a valuable parcel of land to the City of Calgary.

Premier Danielle Smith said she’d like to see if there are new technologies available to remediate a contaminated downtown Calgary area that has been linked to recent arena talks.

Smith made the comments during a media availability on Thursday afternoon in Calgary. Earlier this week, Event Centre chair Coun. Sonya Sharp said that part of the fresh start for the negotiations meant a review of all things, including an arena located in downtown.

The West Village land, formerly occupied by Canada Creosote, was part of the 2015 CalgaryNext plan put forth by Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC). That included a new 20,000-seat arena and a 30,000-seat stadium / multisport fieldhouse.

One of the major hurdles was the remediation of creosote-contaminated soil. In the City’s West Village Redevelopment Plan, they said that due to groundwater impacts, some of the area may never be completely remediated. 

It said that the use and building form would dictate the nature and degree of remediation needed. Estimates on the cost of the cleanup have been between $80 million and $150 million but have been as high as $300 million.

The approximate site of Canada Creosote is shaded in yellow. WEST VILLAGE REDEVELOPMENT PLAN

In 1995, the province put in place a groundwater containment system to control the off-site migration of contaminants.

Now, Premier Smith said they’re interested in examining ways to clean the site up. She’s spoken with the Deputy Minister of the Environment and a couple of companies about the site cleanup.

“I would like to see if we can try out some new remediation technologies to see if there is a way to be able to remediate,” she said Thursday.

“It’s a huge area, a huge land parcel. If we can get that cleaned up, it would have an enormous value to the City of Calgary. It is something that I think that we should be talking with them about if there’s some way that we can accelerate that.”

In a follow-up question, Smith said the province has a non-disclosure agreement and she couldn’t speak about the Event Centre project.

“I’m just letting the parties continue to work together and try to get to a conclusion and if we can be helpful in some way I’ve said that we would like to be helpful,” she said.

Local company said they have the tech

Travis Powell, president of Calgary Aggregate Recycling, said that they’re able to treat the creosote-soaked soil at their facility.

He said what makes the West Village project cost-prohibitive – under normal circumstances – is trucking the soil to the landfill. That, coupled with the cost of dumping the soil in the landfill (tippage and impact on landfill) sends the cost sky-high.  The volume of soil that needs to be remediated is the real key.

He said with their system the soil at the West Village site would get trucked to them, they’d strip out the contaminants. They’d do that through a washing process. The contaminated materials would be concentrated into the “fines” or finely crushed or powdered material after the washing.

“Only about 10 per cent of the material would go to the landfill,” he said.

“Ninety per cent of the material will stay out of the landfill and get repurposed and hopefully upcycled into new concrete or new asphalt roads or bedding for underground utilities, that sort of thing.”

It was tough for him to even provide a ballpark cost, but he said depending on the site, they’d be looking at a cost of $20 to $30 per tonne.

“It comes down to the specific project and how much material are they going to take off the site,” Powell said.

“Their biggest problem on that project is that it’s going to be a big excavation and that it would be a net exporter of material. That’s why they haven’t done anything yet.

“That’s where technology like ours comes into play.”