Thunder Bay Learns From Hamilton Harbour Cleanup
Posted on: December 14, 2016
Dr. Chris McLaughlin
Dr. Chris McLaughlin, Executive Director of Hamilton Harbour’s Bay Area Restoration Council, presented information about the “Randle Reef” cleanup project at the November 30th meeting of the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay remedial Action Plan.

The largest environmental cleanup ever undertaken on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes was the topic of a presentation by Chris McLaughlin to the Public Advisory Committee of the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan on November 30th at Lakehead University. Dr. McLauglin is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Harbour Bay Area Restoration Council. He spoke about the “Randle Reef” project, a $140 million cleanup in Hamilton Harbour to address chemical contamination from the steel industry and other sources. The in-person presentation audience was  joined by livestream viewers through

Listen to a part of what Dr. McLaughlin had to say – (2′ clip)

Dr. McLaughlin’s presentation was instructive as the Public Advisory Committee seeks to find resolution for a large area of mercury contamination in the northern section of Thunder Bay’s own harbour, off the mouth of the Current River.

The following suggestions were made by Dr. McLaughlin and by participants in meeting discussion:

  • Many organizations cooperated to effect Hamilton Harbour cleanup, among them the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Port Authority. Reach out to similar organizations in Thunder Bay to explore ways in which support can be offered.
  • Strive for a non-adversarial approach.
  • Supporting organizations have varying capabilities and assests; they need to work within their own individual means and may have substantial experience, expertise and resources to contribute.
  • Examine surrounding land uses as these lands may play a role in cleanup, depending upon which cleanup method is utilized. Potential efficiencies and obstacles need to be recognized well in advance.
  • Reach out to surrounding landowners, they are the most directly impacted stakeholders in any cleanup process. Some of them may have operated in the area for a long time and have sound advice to offer. They may also be able to contribute resources, even if it is only to act as an equipment staging area.
  • The new owners of “the shipyards” (Heddle Marine Services Inc.) have considerable marine engineering experience, as well as experience in other aquatic cleanup projects. They should be fully informed about the large area of contamination adjacent to their site and any opportunities to assist.
  • Creosote contamination surrounding the former North Wood Preservers site had a name – “the blob” (cleanup of this site was completed in 2005). Give Thunder Bay North Harbour mercury contamination a name as well. It will raise the profile of this contaminated site within the public consciousness much more effectively than simply referring to the area as, “North Harbour.”
  • Further, well-communicated information about toxicity and health affects would be helpful in dialogue with the general public.
  • There are very few pictures or video clips of North Harbour contamination, such materials would be very useful in raising awareness of this contaminated site.
  • North Harbour information on the Infosuperior site should be revised with up-to-date, accurate information, including extensive use of pictures and video clips.
  • Much more information about North Harbour needs to be disseminated to the public on a frequent basis through a variety of formats from social media to traditional media like newspapers, television and radio.
  • Innovative steps should be taken such as a boat tour to the site for the media and interested members of the public or members of organizations with a focus on the waterfront; a group could observe samples of the pulpy contaminated material being taken, if such work is happening.
  • A meeting for fuller, more open discussion of the entire situation including surrounding land uses, presentations on toxicity and health effects, potential funding sources, disposal options and benefits of cleanup could lead to better understanding and effective solutions being proposed. It would also keep the North Harbour contamination issue in the public eye.


Dr. McLaughlin’s Randle Reef presentation.


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