A long time eyesore on the outskirts of Glace Bay is gradually disappearing. Excavators are tearing down and digging up what used to be the heavy water plant.

The plant was built in the 1960s and used to make heavy water to cool nuclear reactors, it was shut down in 1985.

Much of the plant was removed but several boarded up buildings and a mass of underground pipes and concrete remained at the site.

Eight of the remaining buildings were torn down in December of 2012.

"A big portion of what we've done here is concrete demolition, building demolition, recycling steel and now moving soils and getting the site back to a residential or commercial standard," said Gerard Shaw, project manager for Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, which is helping clear the site.

Shaw said the cleanup covers 32 hectares.

"To date we've taken out 15,000 cubic metres of concrete, we still have more in the ground. So we're probably going to see upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 cubic metres of concrete coming out of the ground. You know, putting that in tonnage we're probably talking about 50,000 tonnes."

Big project

Kristan Schruder, acting director of facilities decommissioning for Atomic Energy of Canada, said besides the concrete and metal, there are other things on the site that need to be removed.

"There was some heavy metals from past operations, that there was heavy metals in the ground, there might have been a little bit of hydrocarbons. But those are the type of things we're dealing with at this site."

The former plant's property hugs the shoreline of Glace Bay harbour, so Schruder said they took special precautions to protect the area's environment.

"We did have some steel debris that was along the beach front so we had to remove all of that steel from the beach and we recycle that. What we've done now is we've stabilized all of the beach area such that it now provides stability for our shoreline and protects the site."

District councillor with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Kevin Saccary once worked at the heavy water plant.

He's delighted about the possibilities for the waterfront property.

"There is potential for two categories on the property use there," he said. "And there is some residential availability as well as some industrial."

The total cost of the clean up project is $3,000,000 which is being paid for by the federal government.

The clean up of the site is expected to be completed by March 20, 2014.