Approval of a crushing permit isn’t just about redeveloping an old rail site, but also about cleaning up the environment for the good of the city, said Grand Forks’ mayor and members of city council.
Council approved a temporary use permit application from Southfield Real Estate to allow gravel crushing on property they are developing along Donaldson Drive, roughly between Central Avenue to the Southeast and Coalshute Road to the Northwest.
The proposed development spans a 15-acre strip the company bought from the CPKCS, formerly Canadian Pacific Railroad, which operated the area’s long-defunct Kettle Valley Railway.
Initially the permit was to cover 35 days starting Oct. 1 and ending Dec. 31, but was extended to 40 days to compensate for shorter working days requested by councillors David Mark and Rod Zielinski to minimize noise and dust.
Southfield Real Estate co-owner Gene Koch and Dave Diplock, senior environmental engineer on the project addressed council and their progress on getting environmental assessments and approvals.
Koch said they have been working to remediate the land for around three years. Among the reasons is for future building development, but also to clean up environmental contamination left behind when it was owned by CPKCS and the site of the long-defunct Kettle Valley Railroad.
“The request is for remediation. It’s a wasteland now and without remediation it will remain a wasteland,” said Koch. “We will be doing crushing within certain parameters. We are crushing clean material and have already received approval from the Ministry of Environment on principle.”
The plan is to remove the surface contamination and move it to the north end of the site, which will remain industrial property, where it will be buried. To prepare that burial site, rock will be excavated, crushed and used for construction on site. Diplock explained the crushing is a sustainable method because it’s being used on site for a higher purpose.
He added it’s been a complex process working through risk assessments and remedial planning. The crushing plan had been reviewed and approved by professionals, gone through two screenings by the Contaminated Site Approved Professionals Society and the Ministry of Environment.
Councillor Neil Krog asked about environmental monitoring, pointing out many sites like it used to have a great deal of oil seep into the ground. Diplock said environmental monitoring is happening, but so far no hydrocarbons or PCBs have been detected.
Noise and dust was another issue raised by councillors, which Mike Barisoff, owner of McIntyre Aggregates Crushing Ltd., was available to answer. Councillor Christine Thompson asked about noise from the crusher, speaking from her family’s history in mining. Barisoff said there would be noise, but not enough to be a major problem for nearby residents.
Councillor Krog wanted to know if the company had done any directional modelling for dust, to which Barisoff said it depended on the wind direction, but that could be mitigated with water. As it is, they chose late fall/early winter because it’s usually a cooler and wetter time of year.
Mayor Everett Baker asked about noise from trucks backing up, but the trucks on site will be using lights instead of buzzers.
Mayor Baker went on to thank citizens for their input and concerns. This is private property, but they have contaminated lands they need to clean up for the health of the city and for future development.
In the end, it’s a relatively short period and the benefits are clear.
“I understand people are concerned about noise, but I live downtown and when they were building the flood mitigation, for a while it was constant ‘bang, bang,’ but I looked outside and saw people working and eventually it created something good,” he said. “I also understand people are concerned about land values. I appreciate this and I can see housing developments on this would help increase land values.”
Zielinski asked if the original 35 days could be extended, so hours could be shortened and also set noise limits and dust suppression at the property line. He also asked for a performance bond as some projects either never get completed, or not on time.
Delores Sheets, manager of development and planning, said staff did take this to Gene and found it reasonable, adding the time allotted is tight to address citizens’ concerns.