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Great Lakes Article:

Talks under way to clean up dump
Waterfront site could cost millions to scrub
Oshawa, harbour commission and feds may split bill
By Stan Josey
The Toronto Star

It will cost up to $30 million to clean up an old industrial dump on the Oshawa lakefront before a full-service marina can reopen there. And for the first time it appears the federal government, the city and the harbour commission may be willing to share the bill.

Negotiations are under way between the three parties to decide who will pay, said Councillor Brian Nicholson.

The report of a new federal environmental assessment of the harbour, which has not been made public, identifies "toxic substances" leaking into Lake Ontario from the dump used by the city from the 1930s to 1957.

Nicholson said the report suggests several potential levels of cleanup, with a price tag ranging from $500,000 to $30 million.

"We have a major dump site leaking toxic waste into the lake, and it has to be cleaned up," Nicholson said. "The only debate now is the liability of each of the parties that have played a role in creating this situation over the years."

An earlier environmental report suggested that heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other chemicals used in paint and car batteries were leaching into Lake Ontario from the site. Nicholson said the new report goes further, identifying a "chemical stew" coming from the dump, which was used by a number of heavy industries. Particular sources of the pollutants haven't been identified.

Rehabilitating the old dump also would clear the way for redevelopment of 30 hectares of waterfront land immediately east and north of the harbour for mixed residential-recreational uses.

Oshawa boaters are hopeful that negotiations being held under a mediator will bring about a solution in time to reopen a full-service marina by the summer.

The city has been without a marina since Oct. 1, 2002, when the Oshawa Harbour Commission closed the Oshawa Marina, citing "serious environmental concerns" arising from the former dump next to it.

Larry Ladd, chair of a marina users' group fighting to reopen the marina, said he is hopeful changes in government in Ottawa and at Oshawa City Hall will speed up the cleanup.

"When you look at the size of this city and the revenue it pumps into both federal and provincial coffers, it is a shame that there is no place to launch a boat between Bowmanville and Whitby," Ladd said.

Nicholson, chair of the city's development services committee, which now is in charge of the harbour, says he is optimistic as well that the federal government will play a financial role in the harbour cleanup.

The city and the harbour commission have agreed on very little about waterfront development in the past.

That stemmed partly from the city's 1960s handover of about 30 hectares of prime waterfront, including the now closed industrial dump, to the harbour commission for "industrial uses." The city has argued that land was never developed to its full industrial potential and has asked for it back.

When the harbour commission did finally offer some of it back for $1, the city balked, fearing it would have to pay the full cost of cleaning up the dump.

The city and marina users finally persuaded the federal government and harbour commission to agree to non-binding mediation to settle the question of who should pay.

Nicholson said there are positive signs an agreement will be reached.

"It is encouraging that all three parties are now at the table with money," he said. "Taxpayers made it quite clear, in the last municipal election, that they want the harbour cleaned up and returned to use by the general public.

"Oshawa wants its waterfront back."

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