News / Ottawa

New Ottawa Hospital site has groundwater contamination issue: documents

Documents show compromise location may come with challenge for clean-up.

The Sir John Carling Building was demolished in 2014, but it appears it may have left behind a contamination issue.

The Canadian Press

The Sir John Carling Building was demolished in 2014, but it appears it may have left behind a contamination issue.

The compromise site for the new Ottawa Hospital may have problems of its own, with possible environmental contamination that could require an extensive fix.

The government is in the process of transferring the site of the former Sir John Carling Building, on the edge of the experimental farm, for the new Ottawa Hospital.

The previous Conservative government had offered the hospital a different site on the farm, right across from the existing civic campus, but when the Liberal government came to power it had the National Capital Commission review other options.

Last month, the NCC recommended a site at Tunney’s Pasture, but the Ottawa Hospital rejected that site and after some negotiations all sides came to agreement on the Sir John Carling Site.

Metro obtained an access to information request on the documentation sent from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to the National Capital Commission for the site selection process.

In 2014, the 11-storey Sir John Carling building was demolished through an implosion and the two basement levels were filled in with the rubble.

“The site subgrade foundation cavity was backfilled with pulversized cement from the tower and annex buildings and following that there was a detection of phenol slurry identified in the ground water drainage system,” reads an email from the department to the NCC about the Sir John Carling Site.

The phenol chemical is believed to be a result of the explosives used in the implosion.

Public Works and Procurement, the government department who now manage the site, are monitoring the ground water. It is also subject to an order from Environment Canada to ensure the ground water doesn’t leave the site.

The email, written in July, says a removal of all of the pulverized cement that was put into the site and covered with topsoil may be necessary.  

“There still remains the possibility that the backfill material utilized to fill in the cavity left after the [Sir John Carling Building] tower deconstruction will need to be excavated and the site re-backfilled with clean material.”

Metro attempted to get an update on the situation from Public Works, but, over two days of requests, the department was not able to answer whether the contamination remained a problem or if there was a plan to deal with it.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said this proves the decision to abandon the original proposed site is a mistake.

“It confirms that there are increased risks with this site, with the Sir John Carling site that are not present at the originally selected location,” he said.

He said the provincial government should be transparent in showing the costs of building a hospital on this site to see what the new location ultimately ends up costing.

"That money will have to come out of patient care or some other envelope, because there is no free money."

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