New Brunswick

Moncton's Highfield Square site contaminated

Moncton's Highfield Square site, an area that is being considered for a massive new arena and convention centre project, is contaminated, according to new documents.

City plans $100M arena and convention centre on the former mall site

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

Moncton has disclosed documents showing the Highfield Square property, where the city may build a $100-million arena and convention complex, is contaminated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons.

The revelation is contained in a report by the city's director of environmental planning which was obtained by a citizen using the new provisions of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Graham Decarie lives within walking distance of Highfield Square, the proposed site of the new arena and convention centre.

The land is close to the CN Rail line and Decarie said he thought the property could be contaminated and filed a request with the city to find out.

'It wasn't a surprise and it confirmed what we thought we might find.'— Stephen Truman, city solicitor

But it wasn't until last month, when the city became subject to the province’s information law, that his suspicions were confirmed.

"They told me what there was and they told me that all the concentrations were in excess of acceptable standards," he said.

The report found the soil is contaminated with heavy metals.

And the groundwater has zinc, cadmium, aluminum, iron and chloride levels, which are also above acceptable limits.

Stephen Truman, the city solicitor, said Moncton officials expected to find contamination on the downtown property.

He said some level of contamination is almost inevitable in downtown Moncton.

"It was determined — not surprisingly given its proximity to the CN Rail line, for example — that the soils are contaminated. There's some heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and things like that," he said.

"It wasn't a surprise and it confirmed what we thought we might find."

Money set aside for clean up

The city has budgeted $6 million to buy the land, plus extra money to clean it up.

Truman would not say how much the city will spend on the clean up for privacy reasons.

However, he said the money has been set aside by the city government.

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

Truman said the clean-up money is on top of the $100 million it will cost to build the arena.

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

Last December, P3 Canada, a federal Crown corporation, rejected Moncton’s funding request of $25 million toward the centre.

However, Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc announced the city had finalized an agreement in March that gives it the option to buy a $6 million parcel of land in the Highfield Square area prior to March 2, 2013.

The city paid $25,000 to acquire an option to purchase the land.

Moncton asked four architects to design concepts for the new facility. All of the renderings, which were released in April, featured a 10,000-seat arena and a convention centre, as well as a shopping centre, restaurants, condos and an outdoor space.

The city isn’t the only proponent of the new proposed development project.

Downtown Moncton Inc., a local business group, has committed $2.5 million toward the arena and convention centre project.