In Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, the elderly lord Timon admonishes a poet, “You are an alchemist; make gold of that.” Faced with a more down-to-earth challenge, the City of Brandon performed what amounts to environmental-remediation alchemy by changing an abandoned, contaminated brownfield area into a clean, safe, productive green space and commercial property.
Who said the past is inescapable? Despite an industrial history that resulted in hydrocarbon and heavy metal impacts to soil and groundwater, the area around 1st Street and Rosser Avenue in Brandon, Manitoba, now boasts improved air, soil, and groundwater as a result of the City of Brandon 1st and Rosser Remediation Project. And that is no small achievement.
Only 150 meters south of the Assiniboine River, and adjacent to one of the main thoroughfares in Brandon, the project encompassed an area of nearly two city blocks. Rife with dilapidated buildings, falling fences, and legacy environmental concerns, the affected area began on the northeast corner of 1st and Rosser and extended to 308 Pacific Avenue East.
With portions of the area listed on Manitoba Conservation’s Contaminated Sites List since 1996, the project area had hosted a wide range of industrial activities over the years. Having served as a petroleum distribution facility, rail spur line, fertilizer warehouse, tanning operation, and a metal scrap yard and recycling depot, the site ultimately devolved into an unproductive and potentially harmful land parcel. That remained the case until the City of Brandon tasked AECOM—a global provider of professional and technical services—to lead the assessment and remediation effort.
Beginning in 2001, the project team performed three phases of environmental site assessments to delineate the heavy metal and hydrocarbon- impacted soil and groundwater. Building demolition followed in 2002, revealing what might charitably be described as some “interesting" site characteristics—especially an estimated 1,140 tonnes of broken battery casings and lead-impacted soil. Over the years the land had seen many uses, and their persistent effects meant there were many stakeholders involved in the remediation effort.
Sensitive to changing land-use requirements and the evolving political landscape, the project team gained input from the City of Brandon, the citizens of Brandon, the Brandon Regional Health Authority and Manitoba Conservation before commencing remediation planning in 2005. With planning completed by 2008, the project team then commenced the actual remediation work. Using a variety of techniques and methods, including an electromagnetic survey, x-ray fluorescence technology, stratigraphic modeling, soil solidification/stabilization, on-site GPS survey control, and the installation of an engineered cap, the project team completed remediation in 2009.
Funded jointly by the City of Brandon and the Contaminated and Impacted Sites Program operated by Manitoba Conservation, this $1.8 million assessment and remediation project has transformed a hazardous industrial wasteland into a valuable commercial property with a unique recreational area, one that features lush vegetation and walking and biking paths connecting with more than ten kilometers of trails. And this effort has not gone unnoticed.
The Consulting Engineers of Manitoba, a member organization of the Association of Canadian Engineering Companies, bestowed the City of Brandon 1st and Rosser Remediation Project with an Award of Excellence as one of 2009’s best engineering projects. According to Brandon city engineer Ted Snure, the award was well deserved.
“The City of Brandon is very pleased with the outcome of the project and AECOM’s work and cooperation throughout the eight-year process, from its initial beginnings through to completion. The project entailed numerous challenges, including diversity of changing land-use goals and, at times, outspoken public concern. All of the challenges encountered were well managed by AECOM and the City through a true team effort, leading to a progressive solution. That team spirit was extended to include the Province of Manitoba, as all three partners implemented a brownfield redevelopment strategy that met the needs of each partner.”
For many, the past is inescapable. But the City of Brandon has demonstrated that the past does not always dictate the future. Performing what amounts to environmental-remediation alchemy, Brandon, Manitoba Conservation, and the AECOM project team transformed what was once a veritable industrial wasteland into productive, green, public space.