British Columbia

Clean up of Victoria's Rock Bay toxic site nearly complete

The federal government's remediation of one of B.C.'s most contaminated sites is wrapping up.

First Nations set to purchase land where Rock Bay gasification plant once operated

The remediation of Rock Bay was a joint effort between the federal government and BC Hydro and cost nearly $150 million. (Transport Canada)

The federal government's remediation of one of B.C.'s most contaminated sites is wrapping up. 

The Rock Bay property in Victoria, which will now be sold to local First Nations, operated on Victoria's upper harbour until 1952.

In its early days, the coal gasification plant helped to power Victoria.

Victoria Gas and BC Electric, a predecessor to BC Hydro, operated a coal gasification plant at Rock Bay from 1862 to 1952. (Transport Canada)

Millions spent on clean up

Work on cleaning up the land where the plant was has taken more than a decade.

Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau toured the site Monday.

"In those days, people were not as conscious about environmental factors. Over that time, there was a lot of toxic material that got into the soil, that got into the groundwater, that got into the water."

The remediation of the harbour at Rock Bay required draining the water to remove contaminated sediment. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Ian Chatwell, a project manager with the cleanup said wildlife is returning to the area. 

"We have what, I believe, is a resident blue heron already making  its nest in our planting beds."

First Nations to purchase land

Once final monitoring of the land is complete, the Songees and Esquimalt First Nations plan on purchasing the property, which is located on the edge of downtown Victoria.

The gasification plant left behind contaminated soil, groundwater and sediment. (Transport Canada)

"We have an opportunity to be able to grow economically and be part of the economy," said Andy Thomas, a hereditary chief of the Esquimalt First Nation.

Andy Thomas, hereditary chief of the Esquimalt Nation, says acquiring the Rock Bay property will help his community participate in Victoria's economy. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

BC Hydro has also spent $90 million over the past 20 years to to clean up its section of the site.

Google maps: Rock Bay, Victoria

With files from Megan Thomas