Drums of waste to be excavated from Guelph park
Work will begin this month to remove drums potentially containing chemical waste from a park near Guelph’s Speed River.
“Public health and safety, and environmental protection are our top priorities,” said a city news release announcing the project.
The work involves removing a number of drums buried in the ground of Bristol Street Park, just west of the off-leash dog park and just east of Howitt Creek.
Some drums were already unearthed from the site in 2014 when the city was upgrading water infrastructure in the area. At the time, it was reported that the drums contained solvents, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and styrene.
According to the city’s recent news release analysis of the surface soil, air quality and groundwater indicated there wasn’t a risk to residents and the environment from the undisturbed drums. But city staff have been working with remediation specialists to make sure the buried drums could be removed safely.
“We take our responsibility to protect our residents and the environment very seriously,” Guelph’s deputy chief administrative officer of Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services Jayne Holmes said in the release, noting precautions that would be taken to ensure the work is done safely.
“Air quality will be monitored continuously, and soil samples will be tested regularly during the excavation. Crews will take all necessary precautions to ensure nearby residents are not exposed to any materials or affected soil,” she said.
As each drum is removed, the excavated areas will be backfilled with new soil suitable for residential and parkland use.
If there is a leak from a drum, workers will minimize potential exposure by moving any liquid and affected soil into sealed containers and removing the material from the site for safe disposal.
The city will report its progress throughout the project to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
The city says testing indicates the site has not negatively impacted the water quality in Howitt Creek or the Speed River, and dogs using the nearby dog park are not at risk.
Following the excavation work, more than 100 new native trees and shrubs will be planted in the park.
“Guelph’s natural environment, and the tree canopy are always on top of mind when I think about sustaining our future,” said Holmes.
“This excavation work will improve the environmental conditions of the park, and the additional native trees and shrubs will make the space even more inviting than before, while providing suitable habitat for wildlife. This is how we make Guelph future ready.”
The work will begin in April and the park is expected to be “fully restored” by June 2022, the release said.