McMaster engineering professor says ‘a lot of thought has gone into it’
The notion of putting a lid on a mass of coal tar contamination may sound odd, but it’s actually a common method for remediating these situations, says the project manager of Randle Reef.
Jonathan Gee, manager of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern division of Environment Canada, said the plan to encase the worst part of the contamination in steel has worked in numerous other places. “Famous last words” Over two years back, we did a story about Randle Reef here at pics4twitts. The disgusting coal tar is Canada’s Big Dirty secret.
Hamilton’s Randle Reef has been so polluted It is the largest “known” deposit of Coal Tar by man anywhere in the world.
Randle Reef is a shallow area in Hamilton Harbour, on Lake Ontario near U.S. Steel’s Hamilton Works that is heavily contaminated with TOXIC COAL – TAR. I can remember working at Burlington and Wentworth Streets, and in the 1970s Stelco and Dofasco were dumping right into the Harbour, they were heavily fined and then entered large Environmental Clean-Up Projects with their steel industries.
Part of the Great Lakes shorelines being degraded is due to sediment and contaminent imputs. A range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) include PCBs and PAHs. The polyaromatic (or polyclclic) aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemical compounds that consist of fused aromatic rings that do not contain heteroatoms or carry substituents. PAHs occur inoil, coal and tar deposits and are produced as byproducts of fuel burning whether fossil fuel or biomass. As a pollutant, PAHs, are a concern because some compounds have been identified as carcinogenic (as Randel Reef). PAHs are lipopilic – meaning they mix easily with oil rather than water. The larger PAH compounds are less water-soluble and less volatile (i.e., less prone to evaporate). Due to these properties PAHs in the Environment are found primarily in soil, sediment and oily substances, as opposed to in water or air. However, PAHs are also a component of concern in particle matter suspended in the air. PAHs are one of the most widespread organic pollutants. So, consider living along this area of Burlington Street in Hamilton where some families have lived for many years, and the effects of PAHs to aquatic and human health.
PAHs is not a new issue to researchers or to The Hamilton Port Authority, as this has been evident for at least 10 years ! For example a 2,000 study by Queen’s University addressed the risk to fish using bioavalability as the risk factor of fish and Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediments. It is the sediments in Hamilton Harbour that contribute to it being on the International Join Commission’s list of Great Lakes toxic hot spots. Are you comfortable with that situation ? I am not ! We have a magnificent Lake Ontario Harbourfront that would be the envy of many areas around the world – so if everyone did a little bit to help out as “Hamiltonian’s” it could go a long way to clean up sediment issues in Hamilton Harbour, including toxins like PAHs. One group to contact is the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC) for further information.
The Queen’s University study in 2,000 found “there are protocols available for testing the acute toxicity of sediment – borne compounds to aquatic invertebrates and fish, but there are non for assessing bioavailability to fish.” This study found sediment – borne crude oil, coal – tar, or pure PAH caused an increase of MFO activity to TROUT FINGERLINGS exposed in a four-day bio-essay. Think about TROUT – because the health of a lake is determined by HEALTHYTROUT. These researchers were aware that the trout took both organic and inorganic sediments. So, their testing included (1) area vs volume of sediment,; (2) sediment characteristics (organic vs silt vs clay vs sand; (3) mixing and aging of spiked sediment; (4) freezing vs cold – storage of natural and spiked sediment; and, (5) establishment of gradients through sediment dilution vs sediment volume. Their findings were “induction varies with the amount of contaminated sediment in a tank in a repeatable way. The operational word is “repeatable” – it will happen over and over again. Now from this study’s findings, look at Trout in Hamilton Harbour, do they swim the Harbour and oops…skip Randle Reef…hardly ! Therefore, due to Randel Reef being the second most contaminated sediment site with PAHs in Canada – all Hamiltonians including parents, and , schoolteachers training our young people’s minds should be concerned and develop scientific projects to assist the fish and other aquatic life at Randel Reef in Hamilton Harbour so they will not swim to other areas of the Harbour and spread PAHs.
Hamilton’s own, McMaster University Department of Chemistry and Biology in a 2,000 study addressed the coal – tar contaminents in Hamilton Harbour. Their sediment sample came from Hamilton Harbour and a major contributory. Their chemical findings were, as follows: “bioassays using a TA 100-type strain (YG 1025) were prerformed to assess genotoxicity arising from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Fractions exhibiting mutagenic activity contained PAH with molecular masses = THESE FRACTIONS CONTAINED OVER 80% OF THE GENOTOXICITY ATTRIBUTABLE TO PAH.” That is statistically (mathematically) significant to scientific research ! They concluded ” Suspended sediments collected near areas known to contain high level of coal – tar contamination [ Randal Reef ???? ] in bottom sediments contained HIGHER LEVELS OFGENOTOXIC PAHs than suspended sediments collected from other areas of the Harbour. Okay, come on public, high school teachers, get the questions on the blackboard or on the laptops – Why ? and, Why Not ! Why do the bottom sediments contain higher levels of genotoxic PAH ? What do the coal – tar contamination contribute to PAH ? How does this contamination affect aquatic life and the aquatic food webs in Hamilon Harbour ? How does this highly toxic PAHS affect humans living in the Randle Reef area along Burlington Street in Hamilton ? What further research has been developed on PAHs ? Then develop a morning field trip to Hamilton Port Authority and follow- up with an afternoon section to the field trip to Hamilton Harbour with a scientist ( PhD candidate) from McMaster University to show sediments to young students. Then have a “community appreciation night at your local school and show results of the field study to parents, local officials and the general public.” The more we give our young Hamiltonian’s knowledge, the more likely some of them will become scientists and discover unrevealed answersabout our beautiful Hamilton Harbour.
“Nearly 60 per cent of original wetlands have been destroyed on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, even more between Toronto and the Niagara River. In some parts of southwestern Ontario, the loss has reached 90 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world.”
As Site Coordinator after two years of documenting changes within our wetlands and Lake Ontario, my outcome leaves me with little Optimism, but mostly first hand knowledge of negative consequences from Pollution from high and low waters. Raw affluence still engorges Cootes Paradise leaving animals coated in an oily substance. The usually white mute swans are a dirty green for two months of the last year 2011. Yet compared to 20 years ago many gains have been made.What happens in Lake Ontario directly affects our wetlands.
The Next post will be on the oiling of Mute swan eggs and the probable lack of Signets next year unless wild ones can mate and not have there eggs tampered with.
Walleye, sharp-toothed, gold and olive in colour, appear to be back in Lake Ontario, after decades of very low number. Lilies grow in wetlands that were once sodden mud flats. Shimmering fish sparkle beneath the water’s surface, tiny glimmers of hope that Lake Ontario can be renewed and return to full health again.They are signs that the fish, wildlife and birds that were extirpated — locally extinct — can return to make their home in and near the lake’s waters.The losses have been extreme. Nearly 60 per cent of original wetlands have been destroyed on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, even more between Toronto and the Niagara River. In some parts of southwestern Ontario, the loss has reached 90 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world.
Invasive species continue to threaten the biodiversity of the lake. They include the zebra mussel and the parasitic sea lamprey, which attaches itself to fish with its sucker mouth.Still, there are pockets of improvement. “The sheer number of waterfowl that rest on the lake during migratory period are more than anyone would believe, well over a million,” says ecologist Tys Theysmeyer. “It does remind you it is a great lake.”“Think back to the days when Lake Ontario and Lake Erie were being written off and polluted and unhealthy,” biologist Marion Daniels says of the 1960s and 1970s. Those would be the days when algae bloomed, when dead smelt littered the shoreline, when foam bubbled grey and noxious.“That’s been reversed in a lot of different ways.“We have to take care of the little things. If we’re successful in taking care of the little things, little things become big improvements.”Here are some recent ecological success stories in and around Lake Ontario.
The common carp, a half million pounds of sucker-mouthed, whiskered, heavy-scaled bottom feeders, had overtaken Cootes Paradise, part of the Royal Botanical Gardens between Hamilton and Burlington. It looked like a mud flat. Carp, introduced in the late 19th century as a replacement for salmon, sucked up sediment, rototilled plant life and left the water, polluted by runoff from agricultural land use and urban sewage, a murky mess. In one of North America’s largest wetland rehabilitation projects, which included a fishway to keep out the carp, it has become a true marshland paradise with waving cattails, pelicans (during spring migration), mink, muskrat, perch, sunfish and pike. Fifty native plants once at risk have returned. Most delightful: yellow water lilies and wild rice.
Marshlands: Bogs, swamps and shallow water — like the South Pasture Swamp at the Royal Botanical Gardens — are threatened by agricultural, industrial and urban development. In the past, wetlands were considered breeding grounds for mosquitoes that should be drained or paved. But they are to be treasured. They brim with more life than any other ecosystem — 200 species of birds and 50 species of mammals are dependent on wetlands, which are often sanctuaries for endangered species.
Wetlands: Black-crowned night herons — these are at Cootes Paradise — are wetland-loving birds that rest communally by day and fish by night. They are one of the 300 species of birds found at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Return of the native
The water is cold and fast-running, the gravel clean in Duffins Creek, which spills into Lake Ontario at Ajax, creating a perfect nursery for Atlantic salmon. It’s one of four waterways — including the Credit River, the Humber River and Cobourg Brook — rehabilitated in the past six years to welcome the once-flourishing native species, which vanished at the end of the 19th century. Dams, deforestation, agricultural runoff had made the streams inhospitable. Add to that overfishing — there were reports of thousands being caught in single night. Now, trees are being planted on the banks to increase shade and lower water temperature, and fences are being erected to prevent livestock from polluting the stream and damaging spawning beds. Strains of salmon from Nova Scotia, Quebec and Maine have been hatched and released in Duffins Creek, some 800,000 so far. Scientists are watching to see which is the hardiest and are hoping for signs of wild reproduction.
Atlantic salmon: Since 2006 some 2.5 million young Atlantic salmon have been released into creeks and rivers that empty into Lake Ontario, a collaborative effort by 50 environment-minded citizens, government and private companies. A native species — descended from saltwater fish that adapted to freshwater — Atlantic salmon were last seen in local streams in 1896.
The big-winged birds have returned. Trumpeter swans, the largest of North American waterfowl, had not been seen in Ontario since the 19th century. They had been hunted to near extinction. Hundreds now overwinter in Burlington Bay thanks to the work of volunteers led by retired Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Harry Lumsden, who started a swan restoration program in 1982. Now the indigenous species with the memorable honk is self-sustaining. Another impressive bird, the bald eagle, hadn’t been seen near Lake Ontario in more than 50 years. Last fall, five were spotted at Cootes Paradise in the Royal Botanical Gardens, and one pair has made a nest there, the first on Lake Ontario in decades. There were hopes that the couple might reproduce this year, but it’s likely the male is too young to breed. Once threatened by DDT — they’d eat fish contaminated by the now-banned pesticide — they have an abundance of catfish and sunfish and lots of forested real estate where they can thrive.
Trumpeter swan: the black-billed birds (different from the orange-billed mute swans) were wiped out in Ontario until restoration efforts in the 1980s. There are now about 700 Ontario trumpeters, a population that is growing but still considered fragile.
Bald eagle: Once close to extinction, the bird with the 2.4-metre wingspan has finally returned to Lake Ontario, including Hamilton. Bald eagles need a generous amount of marsh space, 30 hectares or more, and a mature forest in which to nest.
Tiny, sparkly wonders
“It’s not super sexy,” says Gord MacPherson, “but the minnows are back.” Decades ago, the emerald shiner had fallen victim to a lake awash in detergent, fertilizer and sewage. The five-centimetre-long, iridescent fish had been displaced by alewife and smelt — you may have seen the latter washed up on the shore, says MacPherson, manager of habitat restoration for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The shiners’ return signals a new balance in a clearer, cleaner lake. “On a nice summer day, when the lake is really calm, you can see bazillions of them. When I was a kid you couldn’t see them because of the algae.”
Lake Ontario’s shifting, restless dunes, what the poet Al Purdy called “white bonfires in the sunlight,” are continually being restored. The world’s largest freshwater sand barrier is at Sandbanks Provincial Park, near Picton. The dunes are still recovering from 19th century disturbances, when local farmers sent their cows to graze on the dunes — the loss of vegetation led to widespread erosion. Entire trees could be lost beneath the blown sand. Rehabilitation efforts include planting trees — 50,000 in the past five years — and marram grass, a native species. Fencing and walkways help reduce trampling and the impact of wandering visitors.
A low-lying barrier known as “The Beach” separates Burlington Bay from the western end of Lake Ontario. A natural channel connected the upper end of the bay with Lake Ontario, but it was too shallow for navigation. In 1823, a Hamilton merchant by the name of James Crooks urged the House of Assembly to authorize the construction of a canal linking Lake Ontario to Burlington Bay. Work on the project began the following year, and on July 1, 1932, Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland officially opened the waterway even though it wasn’t quite yet finished. The Burlington Canal led to the development of Hamilton Harbour, which was a mixed blessing as industries established there led to the pollution of the beach strip between Burlington and Hamilton that was bisected by the canal.
Using a portion of the proceeds raised by the toll required of ships passing through the canal, a wooden, octagonal lighthouse was constructed along the canal in 1837 by John L. Williams. As steamers transited the waterway, they would often rub against the canal’s wooden piers, and occasionally this friction or sparks from the steamer’s smokestack would catch the piers on fire. On several occasions, George Thompson, who became keeper of the Burlington Canal Lighthouse in 1846, or the operator of the ferry across the canal had to douse fires on the piers.
On July 18, 1856, the steamship Ranger caught a pier on fire as it passed through the canal. High winds quickly spread the fire, leading to the destruction of the lighthouse, ferry, keeper’s cottage, and a local log home. Until the present redbrick dwelling was completed in 1857, Keeper Thompson was required to live in a shanty while he tended a temporary light.
In 1858, John Brown built a new fireproof tower at the Burlington Canal using blocks of dolomite limestone at a cost of $10,479.98. The 90-foot tower was similar to the six Imperial Towers that Brown erected on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay around this same time. The new lighthouse was the first in Canada to burn coal oil. This move away from whale oil angered whalers, who felt their livelihood was being threatened. Keeper Thompson found that using coal oil during the frigid winter months could be problematic. “I had much trouble in warming the coal oil in the pier and lighthouse. I wrapped the oil lamps all round with flannel and rope yarn. I was wearing mittens with the earflaps of the cap down. I kept the large lighthouse burning but the coal oil partially froze!”
George Thompson kept the Burlington Canal Lighthouse for twenty-nine years before he was forced to retire by poor health in 1875. He passed away a few years later in 1879.
The Hamilton Waterfront Trust
The Hamilton Waterfront Trust is a charitable organization with a mandate to make it possible for everyone to use and enjoy Hamilton’s waterfront.
Our organization is leading the way with various developments designed to enhance the waterfront experience and promote easy access to the water’s edge.
Recent developments include the construction of an integrated, environmentally-conscious waterfront trail and the introduction of two 37 passenger trackless Hamilton Waterfront Trolleys.
Aboard a Hamilton Harbour Queen Cruise, passengers have the opportunity to view the waterfront from the water while dining or dancing. The Hamiltonian Sightseeing Tour Boat provides a narrated tour highlighting the history of one of North America’s most noteworthy harbours.
In May 2006, the Williams Coffee Pub provided the first waterfront restaurant with outdoor patio on the Hamilton harbour. With seating for almost 200 people, the view of the harbour and marina offers an ever changing landscape.
Summers would not be complete without the taste of a hand scooped ice cream cone. Waterfront Scoops features “Hewitt’s Dairy” ice cream in a variety of flavours.
All profits from these venues are re-invested into future waterfront developments in the City of Hamilton.
Come and discover Hamilton’s Waterfront … As I do and many other Joggers, Bikers, Hikers, Roller Blade’s, Joggers, Tourists, etc… are using this trail and enjoying the wonderful Hamilton Shoreline.