In 1985, Hamilton Harbour was identified as an Area of Concern under the Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement because of significant water quality impairment, a legacy of the intensive industrial and urban development around its shores for many years.
Randle Reef is an area of contaminated sediment located in Hamilton Harbour that is approximately 60 hectares in size. It contains 695,000 cubic metres of contaminated sediment at the bottom of the harbour, a volume that would fill a major hockey arena 3 times over.
The Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project will cost $138.9 million and will be completed in 2022. Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change have each committed $46.3 million, with the final third of funding coming from the City of Hamilton, the City of Burlington, Halton Region, the Hamilton Port Authority and Stelco (formerly U.S. Steel Canada).
The project involves constructing an engineered containment facility. This specially designed double steel-walled and sealed “box” is approximately 6.2 hectares in size, and is being constructed to contain the most heavily contaminated sediment.
The project is divided in 3 stages. Stage 1 involves re-constructing an adjacent harbour pier wall and constructing the facility. This first stage began in September 2015 with the pier wall reconstruction, which will allow for sediment to be dredged from this area in the second stage of the project. The in-water construction of the facility began in May 2016 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017.
Stage 2 involves dredging contaminated sediment from the surrounding areas and placing them in the facility via an underwater pipeline. This stage is expected to begin in the spring of 2018 and take 2 years to complete.
Stage 3 involves removing the water from and compacting the contained sediment and then constructing an impermeable cap on the facility. This stage is expected to begin in 2020 and be completed in 2022.
Real-time environmental monitoring systems are being used to measure air and water quality in the construction area throughout these stages. Air and water quality criteria have been established to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.
The Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project will improve water quality and reduce contamination in Hamilton Harbour, which will benefit fish, wildlife and people wanting to enjoy a cleaner water supply.
It is estimated that the project will generate approximately $151 million in economic benefits, including job creation, business development and tourism. As contamination is reduced and the stigma of a contaminated harbour is removed, business development may be accelerated with more companies willing to set up in the Hamilton area. The project is also expected to generate economic returns through the creation of valuable port lands. The waterfront development is also expected to encourage more tourism in the area.
Cleaning up Randle Reef is the last remaining major environmental restoration action towards the removal of Hamilton Harbour from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.