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.
UPDATE: September 5, 2022
On June 6, 2022 Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) approved the Reclamation and Remediation Plan. This was followed by the approval of the Risk Management Plan on July 21, 2022. Cherokee is currently awaiting the final comments from AEP on the proposed Long-Term Monitoring Program, which will be used to support the Risk Management Plan.
The approved Reclamation and Remediation Plan includes excavation and disposal of impacted soil not suitable for risk management at an approved off-site landfill facility. A portion of the excavated soil meeting the requirements for recreational land use will be used as subsurface fill within the Parcel Y Recreational Area, a municipal reserve area to be retained as greenspace. Following remediation, the Parcel Y Residential Area will fully meet the AEP Tier 2 Residential Guidelines, including the Site-Specific Remedial Criteria (SSRC) for dioxins developed by AEP and the transition from industrial land use to residential land use can begin.
Cherokee has retained a specialized remedial contractor to conduct the Parcel Y remedial activities in early September. Cherokee anticipates that the remedial program will be completed by the end of October.
What does remedial work entail?
The planned activities include construction of a temporary access road within the site to allow for truck staging and loading on a dedicated gravel surface to minimize tracking onto the adjacent public roadways. Trucks will be loaded on-site and exit via 126 Avenue and 127 Avenue to access 50 Street. All trucks will be limited to 30 km/h through the residential neighborhood. During the remedial excavation activities, we expect 8-10 trucks will be used on a daily basis, with each truck making 3-4 trips to the landfill per day. Additional signage will be placed throughout the neighborhood to remind motorists that trucks are present.
To minimize trucking activities, remediation incorporates the re-use of soils meeting recreational guidelines as backfill within the open excavation area present in the southwestern portion of Parcel Y. This area near the berm will be retained as future greenspace, and no residential development will take place there. In addition, to minimize the trucking of fill materials, the shallow excavations will not be backfilled during the remedial program. Instead, the areas will be left with sloped walls, and will be filled during the subsequent re-grading as part of the overall development activities.
Many people have asked about the removal of the fencing. We have raised this issue with officials many times and it is our hope that once remediation is complete, the fencing will be removed.
UPDATE: 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.
UPDATE: March 30, 2019
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
UPDATE: January 2019
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.
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.