Site remediation at the Queen’s Marque site is expected to cost $2 million — more than twice the $950,000 budgeted for it. The entire cost will covered by the provincial government.

In 2010, the Waterfront Development Corporation announced that it had reached an agreement with the Armour Group for development of the Queen’s Landing site. The new development would include “100,000 square feet of Class-A office space, a 200-room, 4-star hotel, and underground parking to support the development.”

For a variety of reasons, including the death of Armour president Ben McCrea, that development didn’t proceed, but the contract has remained in place.

In January 2017, Waterfront Development announced that the project was moving forward as “Queen’s Marque.” That announcement noted that in 2010 the province had allocated $4.75 million for the project, but an additional $1.8 million would be allocated to “support site preparation and remediation, enhanced public spaces, and build a new temporary floating boardwalk.”

The math doesn’t exactly line up, but the announcement said that the additional outlay of $1.8 million brought the total provincial commitment from $4.75 million to $6.5 million.

The floating boardwalk cost $850,000, so that left $950,000 for site remediation. In a phone interview with the Halifax Examiner today, Peter Bigelow, the Director of Planning & Development for Waterfront Development, agreed that the original expected cost for site remediation was in the ballpark of $1 million. He now expects the full cost to be about $2 million. The additional cost will be covered by the province, said Bigelow.

Bigelow said the increase is related to heavy metal contamination, primarily from lead. The entire site is composed of anthropogenic — human-deposited — fill, and that includes oil and creosotes that contain lead.

Since the site is below the waterline, all of the fill is salted. Bigelow said Armour Group, which is conducting the actual remediation, is dealing with both “clean sodic” — salty fill that is not contaminated with heavy metals — and “dirty sodic” — salty fill contaminated with heavy metals.

The clean sodic from Queen’s Marque is being trucked to Waterfront Development’s site on the Bedford Basin. This is the former acidic slate deposit site that was being used to infill the basin and was about to absorb the Bedford Reef before dumping was stopped last year. The clean sodic from Queen’s Marque is not expanding the infill operation, but rather being used to “cap” the slate with soil, said Bigelow.

The dirty sodic from Queen’s Marque is being trucked to Ground Fix Remediation Services, an approved contaminated soil dump site in Kemptown, outside Truro. Recently, a second approved dump site, Envirosoil Limited, a company associated with Dexter Construction, has opened at the company’s Rocky Lake Quarry, and so now the contaminated Queen’s Marque fill is going to both sites, said Bigelow.

Bigelow said the Queen’s Marque site was analyzed by Stantec before excavation began, and the expected cost of remediation was about a half-million dollars. “We doubled that,” said Bigelow, to come up with the $950,000 figure.

So why has the price essentially quadrupled from the Stantec estimate?

“There were a lot of buildings and structures we didn’t expect to find down there,” said Bigelow. “We were told they had been removed, but there they were.”

Bigelow said that old wharfs treated with creosote were particularly difficult to deal with, and once excavation started those wharfs were responsible for “cross contamination” — the contaminated wharf structures ended up mixed with previously clean fill.

An early report on potential remediation costs said that if all of the fill were contaminated, total costs would reach a whopping $7 million. But, said Bigelow, Armour has now dug through most of the contaminated fill, and the fill being excavated now is mostly “clean sodic.” Bigelow doesn’t expect the final price tag for remediation to exceed much higher than $2 million.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. “There were a lot of buildings and structures we didn’t expect to find down there,” said Bigelow. “We were told they had been removed, but there they were.”

    Not good enough. Not remotely good enough.

    Pre-construction-development surveys, which include structural, environmental and remedial factors, are a staple of industry professionals. Legitimate liability exists for the “surprises” Mr. Bigelow describes. Taxpayers via Nova Scotia government should not be on the hook for the horrific scope and cost of remediation – potentially to the tune of $2 to $7 million, depending on who’s tabulating and what they’re selectively including.

    With a wealth of fine universities and professors in Halifax, why do these engineering and construction fiascos continue to happen?

    Years ago when I worked in Halifax for Ellis-Don, we were pricing a bid for Michelin in Granton. Some engineering documents were in French. I was selected to take them to a professor at Nova Scotia Tech [as it was called then] to have him translate and give me engineering notes. That wasn’t yesterday. We recognized, called upon, and paid for professional expertise. Where has that gone?!