Council defers spending for remediation at the Billings municipal office

Ian Anderson

Will assess other option raised at meeting

KAGAWONG – Billings township council has agreed to defer a motion to spend over $206,600 to remove contaminated soil around the municipal office at this time and look at another option discussed at its meeting last week. 

“We spoke at our previous meeting about our having to take remedial action concerning (contaminated) soil around the Old Mill Township office, and tonight we need to make a decision on what we are going to do,” said Billings Township Mayor Ian Anderson at a council meeting last week. He explained Tulloch Engineering has provided several options and particularly a proposal to carry out limited in site remediation of (petroleum hydrocarbon) impacted groundwater and soils within the building crawl space and adjacent to the north foundation wall of the municipal office.

A motion was put forward to have the work carried out by Vertex at an estimated cost of $206,600. It was put forward by Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack and seconded by Councillor Michael Hunt for a vote.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” said Councillor Alkenbrack. “I’m not in favour of spending all this money, but other than tearing the building down and building a new structure, which is what I would prefer to do, I don’t know if we have a choice.”

Mayor Anderson reminded council that all it is considering is cleaning up the impacted soils and ground water around the building and the sites basement, not about reconstructing the building. He also noted he understands the building has been declared a heritage site. “And even tearing it down will not help with the contamination problem.”
“It is a lot of money to spend and more costs will be coming down in the future,” said Councillor Alkenbrack.

Councillor Sharon Jackson acknowledged, “I’m conflicted. I was born and raised here and this building is part of our history. Some will say it is an old building and a money pit. But I agree, $206,000 is a lot of money to spend and it only repairs part of the problem. There is more work and cost to come. And the township office is there, and those who work in the office need to be safe, as do those in the museum and Edwards Studio. She pointed out the work to be carried out does not include the abatement of mould in the Old Mill building.

The Old Mill, “is one of the historic buildings in the township. It is one of the buildings that people coming into the village see as they travel over the hill,” said Councillor Hunt, who also noted he is not in favour of spending the significant amount of money on the option presented. 

“I don’t feel any different than the rest of council, it is a beautiful building, perfect for the municipal office,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. He said with this option and work that has been done, “we are pushing a quarter of a million dollars here. We have a mould problem that needs to be looked after as well.”

“I’m just wondering if we could defer a decision until we have a better idea of what the exact cost will be,” said Councillor Barker. “We have the waterfront project that is starting and the (Main Street) hill remediation program. Taxpayers can’t share the burden of all three projects. Can we defer this until later?”

Mayor Anderson noted that regardless, the township will not be able to defer the environmental site remediation forever. “As the landowners, and having tenants, we are saddled with the costs of the cleanup. And with the contaminated soil being in the proximity of the bay dredging is not an option.”

Township clerk Kathy McDonald explained that Tulloch has indicated the well in the one spot where the soil is contaminated shows that the contamination is not moving.

It was suggested that a couple more wells could be drilled and monitored to see if the contamination is moving and monitor this. 

“Can we get a cost estimate on having more wells in the area and having the contaminated soil tested-monitored?” asked Councillor Barker. 

“I still have a strong suspicion that at some point we will need to deal with the environmental site remediation,” said Mayor Anderson. 

“I would prefer looking into having more wells drilled and monitoring them to see if the (contamination) is moving,” said Councillor Barker. “If it is moving I would assume all the wells in place now would have been contaminated. I would prefer deferring the motion and looking into having more wells drilled and monitored.”

Council voted in opposition to spending the $206,600 at this point for work to be done, and deferring this until they can look into the other option of additional wells.