Q – Is the current Verte development safe? Is there a health hazard?
A – The community is safe and there is no health hazard. The soil and ground water in the Verte development has been tested and found to be within Alberta Environment and Parks’ guidelines for residential land use. These guidelines are very protective of the most sensitive humans including infants and toddlers. Alberta Environment and Parks reviewed all the sampling data for this area and issued a Remediation Certificate. There is no health hazard remaining from the prior land use.
Q – Why did the Government of Alberta issue this announcement?
A – We are at a loss to understand this action by the Government of Alberta, especially since the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board, an independent expert tribunal, is reviewing specific issues surrounding the former Domtar property.
Q – Can my kids get sick playing in their backyard?
A – There is no health hazard present in your backyard or in the community. The soil and ground water in the Verte development has been tested and found to be within Alberta Environment and Parks’ guidelines for residential land use. These guidelines are very protective of the most sensitive humans including infants and toddlers. Alberta Environment and Parks reviewed all the sampling data for this area and issued a Remediation Certificate. There will be no harm to kids playing in the backyards.
Q – Why did you develop over an area that is alleged to represent a health hazard?
A – Careful consideration and planning was used when designing the remediation for this site. Extensive testing and analysis was used at all stages, including planning and during the active remediation. The extensive and thorough scientific work shows there is no health hazard to your community.
Q – What steps did you take to remove the contaminants?
A – The current Verte development (Parcel C) is on an area of the former Domtar wood preserving plant where there was no chemical processing. Raw wood and finished product was stored in this area. For this reason, only relatively low levels of chemicals were found in soil near the surface during testing. Some of the surface soil was scrapped off and placed into the core of the berm on the eastern side of the former Domtar property. Once that was completed, confirmatory sampling showed that the remaining soil was within the Alberta Environment and Parks guidelines for residential land use. Prior to any homes being built, all contaminants were removed from this part of the Verte development.
Q – Why did you go the Appeals Board?
A – The remediation plan we proposed for the neighbouring lands and that was accepted by Alberta Environment and Parks included a significant amount of soil and ground water testing prior to development. All this data was submitted to Alberta Environment and Parks for review and their comments were addressed from 2011 to 2014. After the approved plans were implemented and significant remediation work has been completed, Alberta Environment and Parks began to request additional sampling for the neighbouring lands that we believe was redundant to the testing we had already completed. Despite our efforts to clarify the issues, Alberta Environment and Parks refused to meet and discuss the matter. Orders were issued in 2016 in relation to neighbouring lands and the appropriate recourse available to us was to go to the Environmental Appeals Board, an independent expert tribunal. The appeals are currently being considered by the Board.
Q – What is going to happen to the value of my home?
A – That is a very good question and an understandable concern. It is difficult for us to evaluate how the Government’s recent actions may impact your property values; however, we are committed to working with you and your community to ensure it is ultimately safe and a good place to live.
Q – Why has the Government of Alberta issued new environmental orders for the former Domtar property and the Greenbelt?
A – We are at a loss to understand these actions. Previous orders for the neighbouring properties were issued in 2016 and are currently being assessed by the Environmental Appeals Board, an independent expert tribunal. The 2016 orders were stayed (put on hold) by the Board until the Board makes it report on our appeals.
Q – Why is Alberta Environment and Parks planning to do soil testing on the current Verte development?
A – We are surprised by this but we cannot speak to the Government’s motivations. The current Verte development (Parcel C) was remediated before 2013 when the Remediation Certificate was issued. Subsequently, the area has been subdivided and homes built with no issues raised by the Government. Soil from sources away from the former Domtar site was brought in to adjust the grade at much of current Verte development.
Q – What would you do if contaminated soil is found in either the current Verte development or the remainder of the development land that you may have missed in remediation?
A – We have always stated that any contaminated soil that is encountered during development that was accidentally missed during remediation would be dealt with promptly by us. The Remediation Certificate Terms and Conditions also consider this possibility.
Q – Why should we believe you?
A – We would not compromise on our responsibility to create safe environments for communities. We have a long and positive track record with the rehabilitation of contaminated sites. We have built a reputation that is trusted and respected. Doing anything which even slightly compromises our services would have a devastating impact on our company which is built on integrity and commitment to the well-being of people and the environment.
Q – Why would the Government of Alberta go to this extent if they didn’t believe that there is a risk here?
A – We cannot speak to the Government’s motivations. What we can say is that we have been thorough in our commitment to remediate this site using best science, and we have met all of the environmental requirements.
Q- What reassurances can you give to nearby residents and future residents of this area?
A – We are fully confident that when remediation is complete the former Domtar property will pose no risk to the community. The current Verte development (Parcel C) was fully remediated and all the reports and testing were reviewed by Alberta Environment and Parks before a Remediation Certificate was issued in 2013. Before the future development proceeds on neighbouring lands, it will be cleaned up to meet the appropriate Alberta Environment and Parks guidelines for residential use. We stand on our record as a company invested in creating safe environments by cleaning up sites that would typically languish for years often in a state that does present risk.
Q – Did you build the berm without permission as Alberta Environment and Parks has said?
A – The development of the berm on neighbouring lands was proposed in the remedial action plan we submitted and that was accepted by Alberta Environment and Parks in 2009. We submitted an updated plan in 2011 that again included the construction of a berm using the contaminated soil from the future development area. Alberta Environment and Parks reviewed and accepted our plans. We would never have purchased the property nor proceeded with the redevelopment work without permission from Alberta Environment and Parks.
Q – Why not just remove the berm and replace it with clean soil?
A – Transporting the contaminated soil to a designated landfill would make redevelopment of the site cost prohibitive. In fact, this site sat empty for decades because transporting this amount of soil for offsite disposal is not feasible and would make the redevelopment of this area impractical.
Q – Do you believe that the berm poses a risk?
A – We believe that the berm is safe. An independent consultant performed human and ecological risk assessments before the berm was constructed and determined that the berm would not harm human health or the environment. All the contaminated soil in the berm from the development area of Parcel Y is contained beneath a one metre thick layer of clean soil so there is no exposure. Our extensive studies have shown that ground water in the berm area will not harm human health or the environment. Homes will NOT be built on top of the berm which is also required to insulate the nearby communities from train sound and to create a safety barrier.
Q – Are there liquid contaminants in the berm?
A – During remediation of the future development area on neighbouring lands, an area with liquid contaminants (creosote) was found. This was not unexpected and was discussed with Alberta Environment and Parks at the outset. These contaminants were pumped out and trucked off-site for proper disposal. No liquid contaminants were ever placed in the berm. The recent testing by Alberta Environment and Parks found a location in the ditch between the berm and the CN Railway where a thin floating layer of petroleum was found. Further investigation will be done at this location and appropriate corrective action taken. This liquid was not from material that is in the berm. Alberta Environment and Parks is claiming that liquid was found at other locations in the berm but that claim is based on a theoretical calculation, not on actual observations. Alberta Environment and Parks also found a thin layer of floating oil on water in an excavation near the berm where remediation is not complete. This will be addressed as remediation is completed.
Q – Why didn’t you just complete the sampling and delineation plan ordered for the berm and the area surrounding the berm?
A – The remediation plan we proposed for neighbouring lands and that was approved by Alberta Environment and Parks included construction of the berm, along with a significant amount of pre and post berm development testing. All this data was submitted to Alberta Environment and Parks for review and their comments were addressed. We believe that there is adequate information available this time, and as we indicated, this will be reviewed by the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board.
Q – What does the latest testing done by Alberta Environment and Parks tell us?
A – The extensive testing in the area adjacent to the railway all along the former Domtar property is consistent with the data that was available before remediation. At two locations on the land adjacent to the railway, a limited quantity of liquid was found. Further investigation will be done at these locations and appropriate corrective action taken. Three isolated locations where soil exceeded the appropriate Alberta guidelines were found on the future development area. These areas will be addressed through soil removal and confirmatory sampling as the remediation is completed.