When it comes to environmental monitoring at the Squamish Oceanfront, no news is good news.
Since 2003, on behalf of the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corp., the Vancouver-based environmental consulting group Azimuth Consulting Group has overseen mercury level monitoring on the municipally owned property.
In 1998, the owners of the Nexen chlor-alkali plant, which previously stood on the site, were ordered by the Canadian government to do a $40-million remediation project. Over four years, 24,000 tonnes of soil was washed, three tonnes of mercury was recovered and 150,000 tonnes of mercury-laden earth was shipped to the West Edmonton Landfill — enough sludge to fill approximately three Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Results of the long-term monitoring program are reported annually, District of Squamish spokesperson Christine Moore wrote in an email to The Chief. So far they’ve have shown that the cleanup on the site has been effective, she said.
“Conditions in the local marine environment have continued to improve over time,” Moore wrote.
In 2011, the measured groundwater quality improvements allowed the SODC to successfully apply to the B.C. Ministry of Environment to temporarily shut down a small on-site groundwater treatment system. The facility is maintained on “standby,” Moore said.
Testing results completed as recently as the winter of 2013 demonstrate that water contaminants remain below the ministry’s defined concentrations for this site.
“If these levels were to rise, the surface water or groundwater treatment would again be triggered,” Moore wrote. “Mercury concentrations are also sufficiently low that there is no expected health risk to animals or to humans that might consume them.”
Hemmera, a Vancouver-based environmental consulting firm, acts in a review and advisory capacity for the SODC environmental monitoring program. The company is the main liaison between SODC and environment ministry, Moore said.