Nfld. & Labrador

Work underway to cap St. John's dumpsite abandoned by U.S. military in 1960s

Ottawa has awarded a contract for remediation work on a decades-old American military dumpsite in the White Hills area of St. John’s, in an effort to ensure “the ongoing protection of human and ecological health.”

$345K contract awarded by Ottawa to ensure ‘ongoing protection of human and ecological health’

A former American military dumpsite in the White Hills area of St. John's is pictured in these photographs taken during the summer of 2015. Pools of a shimmering liquid were evident, left; a partially buried metal drum protruded from the ground, bottom right. Ottawa has awarded a contract to remediate the area. (Courtesy: hiddennewfoundland.ca)

Ottawa has awarded a contract for remediation work on a decades-old American military dumpsite in the White Hills area of St. John's, in an effort to ensure "the ongoing protection of human and ecological health."

The old dump is located above the former Fort Pepperrell military installation. The U.S. had a base in the Pleasantville area of St. John's from the Second World War through to the early 1960s.

"The work currently underway is part of a long-term plan to ensure that the White Hills site remains safe for human health and the environment," Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesperson Helena Sergakis noted in an email to CBC News.

The work currently underway is part of a long-term plan to ensure that the White Hills site remains safe for human health and the environment.- Helena  Sergakis  

Today the area is popular with hikers and dog walkers, who use the network of roads and trails there.

The dumpsite is on federal land and is near the provincial headquarters of the RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"The current project to cap and establish a soil cover at the former dumpsite will implement an effective solution to ensure that the contaminated site continues to pose no risk to human health or the environment," Sergakis said.

The $345,000 contract was awarded in September. Work is expected to be done by the end of March.

According to Sergakis, it will see capping and soil cover work carried out to "establish a vegetative cover to prevent contact with any contaminated surface soil."

The former dumpsite area had previously been identified as a contaminated site, with elevated concentrations of metals such as lead, chemicals common in petroleum products, pesticides, and benzo(a)pyrene.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes benzo(a)pyrene as a "potent mutagen and carcinogen."

This road in the White Hills area of St. John's leads towards a former American military dumpsite that was abandoned when the U.S. base Fort Pepperrell shut down in the early 1960s. Ottawa recently awarded a contract for work to remediate the contaminated area. (Rob Antle/CBC)

Site has been 'actively monitored' for years

The feds say they have "actively monitored the White Hills site since 2001" and "considerable environmental work" has already been done there. That includes the removal of visible debris in 2011.

According to Ottawa, there has been extensive testing that confirms that, outside the former dumpsite, the White Hills property presents "no risk to human health or the environment."

Other debris has been dug up in the area of St. John's once used by the Americans.

In 2014, construction of a new school in nearby Virginia Park was temporarily halted when workers uncovered an array of vehicle parts, appliances and other waste, including an airplane fuselage.

About the Author

Rob Antle

CBC News

Rob Antle is producer for CBC's investigative unit in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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