Moncton mum on mall contamination cleanup costs

The City of Moncton won't say how much it has budgeted to clean up contamination at the Highfield Square property, but the city solicitor says taxpayers shouldn't worry.

Taxpayers shouldn't worry, says city solicitor

The Highfield Square property is contaminated with hydrocarbons and heavy metals, according to documents released to Graham Decarie. (CBC)

The City of Moncton won't say how much it has budgeted to clean up contamination at the Highfield Square property, where it hopes to build a $100-million arena and convention centre.

And while the city has been burned before when it comes to cleaning up a downtown property, Steve Trueman, the city solicitor, says taxpayers shouldn't worry.

"Any clean up or remediation of the property will fall easily within the budgeted numbers we've allocated up to this point," he said.

The Highfield Square site is contaminated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons, documents recently obtained by a citizen under the new provisions of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act show.

The city has an option to buy the former shopping mall property for $6 million.

More testing must be completed before a total cleanup cost can be established, said Trueman.

But city officials expected the site, located close the CN Rail line, would be contaminated, he has said.

Call centre cleanup cost $410,000

In 2005, taxpayers were left to foot the $410,000 bill to clean up the Rogers call centre site.

Trueman had assured Moncton council the centre's developer would pay to remove soil contaminated with copper, zinc, lead, arsenic and benzopyrene from an older lumber yard.

The city sold the land for $500,000, but the developer didn't pay for the cleanup — taxpayers did.

At the time, then-councillor Kathryn Barnes wanted guarantees the city wouldn't be left holding the bag again.

"I'd like to see some financial numbers with regards to the amount of soil that will be required to be removed, and how much of that is contaminated," she had said.

 "What will be the city's cost?"

The soil at the Highfield Square site is contaminated with heavy metals at concentrations in excess of acceptable standards, according to Graham Decarie, who filed an information request with the city.

The groundwater also has above acceptable levels of zinc, cadmium, aluminum, iron and chloride, Decarie has said.

The city has been pushing for a new arena and convention centre for several years.

The Highfield Square location was selected as the best option, based on site characteristics, location and transportation; costs of acquiring development land; urban context and physical elements; and economic impact and synergy with the downtown.

In March, the city paid $25,000 to acquire an option to purchase the property.

The new facility is expected to include a 10,000-seat arena and a convention centre, as well as a shopping centre, restaurants, condos and an outdoor space.

The Moncton Coliseum, which is more than 40 years old, has a seating capacity of 7,200 and its roof is too low for some major concerts, officials have said.