A property in Glace Bay where a heavy water plant once stood could be converted to a residential neighbourhood.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is in the process of rezoning the 150 hectare site.

The plant was shut down in the 1980s; the structures have since been removed and the site has been remediated but the areas regional councillor, Kevin Saccary, says he has concerns about what might still be in the ground.

Heavy water is not radioactive, but other substances used at the site may have contaminated the location.

"I did work there myself for three years back in the mid-70s," Saccary said, "and I can tell you that there was a lot of foreign material went through that property. My concern is, would you want to put a basement in that sort of ground?"

Most of the site safe

Saccary says there are still concrete foundations underground in some places. 

"If anyone can recall the structure of the tanks as they sat on the ground, some of them were approximately, I'm thinking, 120 feet in the air," he said.  "The supports for those structures are pretty deep in the ground and I've been told concrete is reaching as far as 20 feet into the ground."

Saccary says there may have been other materials buried on the property as well.

Despite his concerns about the land immediately surrounding the former plant, Saccary supports the motion to rezone most of the property "because it doesn't just include that particular site. It includes a few hundred acres," he said,

"It also covers both sides of the highway. Some residents have already purchased property there, and my guess is they will subdivide and sell lots, which I think is a good thing," Saccary said.

CBRM's director of planning, Malcolm Gillis says the municipality is awaiting information from the federal government — the current landowner— about which parts of the property are safe for building homes.

"We've asked for and have been promised a map," he said, "that illustrates portions of the property that have been rehabilitated to a residential standard."

Gillis says the municipality will advocate the zoning change only for the land that has been adequately remediated.  He says the rest of the land will remain in the commercial and industrial categories.

He says that information should be available in advance of the final public hearing into the zoning change.