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Backgrounder

Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project

With an investment of $46.3 million, the Government of Canada is taking action to clean up one of the largest and most contaminated sites within the Canadian side of the Great Lakes—Randle Reef in Hamilton Harbour. 

Hamilton Harbour is a 2,150-hectare area located at the western tip of Lake Ontario and is connected to the lake by a ship canal. In 1985, it was identified as an Area of Concern under the Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement due to significant impairment of water quality. While many improvements have been made to reduce pollution in the harbour, the problem of contaminated sediment remains, and that is why the Government is taking action. Several urban centres are located in the watershed including the cities of Hamilton, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Stoney Creek, Burlington, portions of Halton Region and the Township of Puslinch. 

Located in the southwest corner of Hamilton Habour, the Randle Reef site is approximately 60 hectares (120 football fields) in size. The site contains approximately 675,000 cubic meters of sediment contaminated with Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and other toxic chemicals. PAH contamination at Randle Reef is a legacy from a variety of past industrial processes dating back to the 1800s. 

The Randle Reef sediment remediation project involves constructing an engineered containment facility on top of a portion of the most contaminated sediment, then dredging and placing the remaining contaminated sediment in the facility. The facility will be made of double steel sheet pile walls with the outer walls being driven to depths of up to 24 metres into the underlying sediment. 

Cleaning up Randle Reef will improve water quality, making it safer to eat fish caught in the harbour. It will also remove current restrictions on navigation and generate economic returns through the creation of valuable port lands. 

All other major actions to restore water quality and aquatic ecosystem health in Hamilton Harbour have been completed or are underway. However, Hamilton Harbour cannot be delisted as an Area of Concern until contaminated sediments at Randle Reef have been successfully cleaned up.

Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Port Authority, U. S. Steel Canada, the City of Burlington, and the Regional Municipality of Halton are all working together to advance the proposed Randle Reef sediment remediation project.

On September 7, 2012, Minister Kent and United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed an amended Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement committing both countries to restore environmental quality in designated Great Lakes Areas of Concern, the most severely degraded sites within the Great Lakes. 

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