There's a lot of lamentation in Guelph concerning parking downtown. So much so that no one really stops to wonder why some parking lots are placed where they are. Take, for example, the lot on Fountain Street across the rode from Guelph Police headquarters. Situated amongst many homes and businesses, it's a lone oasis of gravel and pavement that doesn't seem to service any particular business. True, it is now also home to Guelph's Greyhound bus terminal, but what if I told you that's because the property is too unsafe to have anything else, but a parking lot there?
The address in question was once a coal gasification plant. Coal tar residuals have been found at the site previously, making any habitation their impossible until its been thoroughly cleaned. It's one of numerous so-called "brownfield" sites in the Royal City, parcels of land with which nothing is being done because they first require a thorough clean-up of dangerous and/or toxic chemicals that were once used and/or dumped on the land. Such clean-up obviously requires time and money in order to make the land usable once again.
On the subject of the latter, the Government of Canada and Federation of Canadian Municipalities today announced that they were coming through with some cash that the city can use to assess and de-toxify the Fountain St. parking lot.
Here's the press release from the FCM courtesy of the City of Guelph:
July 7, 2015, Guelph, ON – The Honourable Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, and Raymond Louie, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and Acting Mayor of the City of Vancouver, BC, today announced a Green Municipal Fund TM grant of $175,000 to the City of Guelph. The City is using the funds for soil and groundwater testing as part of a multi-phase environmental study around a former coal gasification plant. Once all phases of the environmental study are complete, the City will determine what steps are required to restore the brownfield site to economically productive use.
“Our Government is helping municipalities across the country to achieve their goal of a cleaner and healthier environment for their citizens through the Green Municipal Fund,” said Minister Rickford. “Today’s announcement is another example of how our government — in partnership with the FCM — is helping communities like Guelph build a greener future for our citizens.”
“The Green Municipal Fund offers a range of resources and services that specifically addresses the sustainable community development needs of municipal governments,” said Mr. Louie. “The financing and knowledge provided by the Fund support the development of communities that are more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.”
“This grant will enable the City of Guelph to conduct a proactive study on a site that is centrally located in our downtown,” said Guelph’s Mayor Cam Guthrie. “We are grateful to the Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for their significant support.”
Previous studies found coal tar residuals within and around the site of the former coal gasification plant, now a parking lot and temporary bus terminal. The City of Guelph drilled boreholes and put in wells to monitor the direction and extent of movement of residuals through soil and groundwater.
The City of Guelph and FCM’s Green Municipal Fund will share information gathered and lessons learned with brownfield developers and other municipalities with coal gasification sites.
The Government of Canada endowed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with $550 million to establish the Green Municipal Fund TM . The Fund supports partnerships and leveraging of both public and private-sector funding to reach higher standards of air, water and soil quality, and climate protection.
FCM has been the national voice of municipal governments since 1901. It fosters the development of sustainable communities to improve quality of life by promoting strong, effective, and accountable municipal government.