About the Verte Homesteader Development
The Homesteader site includes lands where Domtar Inc. operated a former wood processing facility. Domtar made treated wood such as railway ties, deck lumber and telephone pole. Much of the treated wood from this former facility is still in use all across Alberta.
Domtar’s operations ceased in 1987. Domtar conducted environmental remediation work on the site and the Greenbelt in the 1990s, which also included extensive testing of soil and groundwater. This work was undertaken with knowledge and oversight of Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).
Aerial photo prior to development of the Verte Homesteader area.
Where exactly is the site located and what areas are planned for development?
The infill development site includes Parcel C and Parcel Y (noted in the map below),which will be redeveloped for residential use. An engineered berm separates the residential parts from the CN mainline and serves as a safety and noise and attenuation barrier. A parcel of land referred to as the Greenbelt is adjacent to the east of the site and is owned by the City of Edmonton.
Why is the Greenbelt not part of the infill development?
While the remediation of the site included the Greenbelt, there is no residential development on the Greenbelt site itself. The Greenbelt is owned by the City of Edmonton. For further information about the Greenbelt, please refer to the Domtar website: https://www.overlandersgreenbelt.ca/.
In 2009, Cherokee, a property developer specializing in the development of brownfield sites, submitted an environmental remedial action plan that was accepted by Alberta Environment and Parks for redevelopment of the site for residential purposes. On that basis, Cherokee acquired the site for redevelopment in 2010.
Cherokee submitted an updated plan to Alberta Environment and Parks in 2011 that was also accepted by Alberta Environment and Parks. Cherokee then began further environmental testing, assessment and remediation work.
In 2013, Alberta Environment and Parks issued a Remediation Certificate for Parcel C after it reviewed data showing that the soil and groundwater met the Province of Alberta’s standards for residential use. Based on the Remediation Certificate, Alberta Environment and Parks approved Parcel C as the first phase for residential development. The Remediation Certificate also enabled the City of Edmonton to approve the zoning and subdivision applications for Parcel C allowing development to begin.
Starting in late 2016, Alberta Environment and Parks began to issue numerous orders against Cherokee and Domtar demanding more testing of Parcels Y and X despite its initial approval and despite the fact that dozens of environmental reports including over 800 soil samples had been provided to the Government over the decades by both Domtar and later Cherokee.
Despite repeated requests beginning in 2014, up until 2019, the technical staff of the Alberta Environment and Parks was unable to meet with Cherokee to address the issue of further testing on Parcels Y and X.
As a last resort, Cherokee and Domtar appealed all of the Orders issued by Alberta Environmental and Parks to the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) to have an independent expert body decide the matter.
Environmental Appeals Board Decision
On March 13, 2019, after a lengthy public hearing, the Government of Alberta released the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) Report and Ministerial Order which reversed all of the enforcement orders imposed by the Director of Alberta Environment and Parks against Cherokee.
The EAB Report determined that:
- Cherokee legitimately believed that they had obtained the required authorization to move forward with the development.
- The Director lacked the jurisdiction to issue the Orders. For the Director to issue an enforcement order, there must be a contravention of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, which there was not.
- The Director’s decision to issue the enforcement orders was both incorrect and unreasonable.
- The Director was incorrect and unreasonable in concluding that there was any hazardous waste on the site.
- There is NO IMMEDIATE RISK TO RESIDENTS AND OTHER PEOPLE
Where from here?
As part of the release of the EAB Report, the former Minister of the Environment and Parks, Shannon Philipps, issued new Orders that will move the project forward again. The Minister essentially put the project back to where it was before the original Orders were issued, and set a timeline that requires Cherokee and Environment and Parks, to complete steps by specified dates. Cherokee is now following the Ministers Orders and continuing with the original remediation plan and working in conjunction with the Environment and Parks technical and approvals staff.
Information about the status of the remediation can be found on this website under “Ministerial Orders Updates” section of this website.
December 13, 2021
On December 10, 2021 the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Environment and Parks (AEP) released information about the criteria for dioxins as it relates to the soil review undertaken by the Alberta Government in the Verte Homesteader neighbourhood: https://www.alberta.ca/contaminant-management-domtar.aspx
The Government has set criteria for dioxin levels at 330 parts per trillion (ng/kg).
Extensive soil testing in the community confirms that no areas of the existing recently developed residential community (Referred to as Area “C”) are impacted. Further, the testing confirms that a small percentage of the undeveloped section of Verte Homesteader (referred to as Area “Y” below) Community may be impacted.
Cherokee has submitted a Remediation Plan and a Risk Management Plan to AEP. Once this plan is approved by AEP, Cherokee will move quickly with remediating the property. Depending on the amount of time it takes for AEP to approve the plans, it is hoped that the site will be ready for residential development later in 2022.
With the announcement of the criteria, Cherokee can now return to the community and undertake a site cleanup, including the establishment of a regular grass cutting and weed control program. More information including dates and details about the clean-up plans will be announced in the coming weeks.