Downtown residents call for soil testing of park on former industrial site

Hamilton’s Central Park is a typical city park – there’s a baseball diamond, playground, tennis courts, splash pad, a network of walking trails connecting the amenities, and a great tobogganing hill with a big buzz-kill “no tobogganing” sign to protect the city from liability.

What’s unique to this park, and concerning residents around it, is what’s not seen in the park. The park is built on top of a former industrial site that was capped with two feet of top soil.

The Central Neighbourhood Association wants City Council to conduct soil testing to ensure none of the previous toxins on the site remain hidden under the surface. They’ve submitted a letter to council asking for a phase I environment review.

According to press reports uncovered by the Central Neighbourhood Association, 675,000 litres of naphthalene, tar residue and
diesel fuel oil were removed from the Central Park site when it was established.
Downtown resident Matt Jelly, chair of the CNA, says the association spoke with city staff during the past few months as they researched the history of the site. City staff were not able to find any records of soil testing or the remediation plan from the original creation of the park in 1981.

“We are simply requesting more information- we cannot say one way or the other whether the park has serious environmental issues without establishing some of that history,” says Jelly. “We do believe that the information our association has compiled thus far would warrant a closer look.”

One of the companies that once occupied the Central Park site was Currie Products. Currie is known for the remaining barrels of toxic waste at the same it moved to from Central: 350 Wentworth Street North. The CNA’s research found “85 formal complaints and 11 violation orders were filed against the company’s Wentworth North property up until 1989 when Currie Products went bankrupt.”

Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr says he will be discussing the matter with city staff and if there are no soil records for the park, he will be moving a motion to conduct the soil testing as part of an environmental review.