It's official: The cleanup of Randle Reef, Hamilton Harbour's most toxic hot spot is moving ahead.

After decades of talk and years of false starts all the agreements are in place to move forward with the $139.9-million project to clean up a large area of toxic sediment in Hamilton Harbour.


Randle Reef area of Hamilton Harbour (Kevin Gamble/CBC)

“All legal agreements to fund and implement the project have been completed and signed,” the partners said in an announcement Monday.

That includes the federal and provincial government, the city of Hamilton, the Hamilton Port Authority, U.S. Steel Canada, the city of Burlington and Halton Region.

“The clean up of Randle Reef is important for the future of this community and reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to clean water for Canadians,” said Leona Aglukkaq, federal environment minister, in a statement.

'It's a real milestone in the history of restoring Hamilton Harbour and it really helps change the channel.' - BARC ​, executive director Chris McLaughlin

To have official agreements in place is "an enormous deal" for the harbour, said Chris McLaughlin, executive director of the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC).

Officials have announced the clean up of Randle Reef "many, many times" but it hasn't materialized,.

"It's a real milestone in the history of restoring Hamilton Harbour and it really helps change the channel," he said. 

Each year, BARC releases a harbour cleanup report card called Toward Safe Harbours. Last year, and in previous years, cleaning up sediment in the harbour has gotten a D, McLaughlin said.

"That's what announcements and talking about funding it gets you," he said. "Shovels in the water shoots you up to an A+."

Significant step

Fixing the Randle Reef problem will not on its own de-list the harbour as an International Joint Commission area of concern, McLaughlin said. But it will be a significant step.

The cleanup is a multi-party commitment between the federal and provincial governments, the Hamilton Port Authority, the City of Hamilton, the City of Burlington, U.S. Steel and the Halton Region.

U.S. Steel is contributing 10,000 tonnes of hot rolled steel sheet and an additional 700 tonnes of steel products that will be used in constructing the containment facility that will encase the sediment. The federal government will spend $46.3-million, and both local governments and the province will also spend $46.3 million.

The project will contribute about 60 jobs per year in the local community, officials say. Once the project is completed, the government is expected to remove restrictions on navigating the Hamilton port, which sees about 700 vessels per year.

Randle Reef spans about 60 hectares, or 120 football fields, in Hamilton Harbour, and contains about 675,000 cubic metres of heavily contaminated sediment.

Construction is expected to begin next year.