All signs point towards the turgid Randle Reef getting some cleanup relief.
Councillors pledged $6 million to fund a cleanup of the site Monday. This comes in addition to the city’s existing $8 million commitment to the project.
“I'm really pleased to be on a council that will be responsible for the cleanup of Randle Reef,” said Jason Farr, ward 2 councillor.
The proposed project will cost almost $140 million. It is a joint commitment between the federal and provincial governments, U.S. Steel, the Hamilton Port Authority, the City of Hamilton, the City of Burlington, and the Halton region.
“This has been a long road,” said Brian McHattie, ward 1 councillor. “Now we're extremely close … and this has to get done this year.”
If everyone involved agrees to jump in on the project this year, cleanup would begin in 2014. Mayor Bob Bratina said he expects other municipalities would be on board.
Until recently, Randle Reef was the second worst coal tar contaminated site in Canada, after Nova Scotia's Sydney Tar Ponds.
But recent cleanup efforts in Sydney have handed Hamilton the dubious top honour, said Chris McLaughlin, executive director of the Bay Area Restoration Council.
“And we'd be thrilled to pass that honour onto somebody else,” he said.
While the city is on board with the cleanup decision, some councillors approached the dollar figures with trepidation. The city has been trying to find a plan to clean the site for two decades — in the '90s, it was estimated the cleanup would only cost $15 million.
That cost has gradually risen through the years — last year, it was pegged at $105 million.
“Why has the price spiked in a close to zero level inflation period?” asked ward 12 councillor Lloyd Ferguson.
Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead also voiced his concern as to how the finances would work.
But McLaughlin says until a recent environmental impact assessment and engineering review was performed, a true dollar figure couldn't really be placed on the project.
“The numbers now more truly reflect the nature of the project,” McLaughlin said. “It's highly complex.
“But now, we can finally own a positive outcome. Not just the burden we've had to own all these decades.”