The City of North Bay is planning to initiate on-site remediation of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) at the Jack Garland Airport lands as early as this spring, subject to North Bay Council’s approval of an increase in contract price and scope for the environmental consultant overseeing the engineering and design of the remediation plan.

Under an existing $20-million agreement with the Department of National Defence (DND), 97 per cent of the remediation project would be funded by the federal government.

The scope of work includes the removal and treatment of the most contaminated soil, the injection of adsorptive material in identified hot spots at the site’s boundary to treat groundwater before it exits, and the placement of adsorptive material at exit locations to prevent PFAS in surface water from downstream migration.

“The development of a PFAS remediation plan has been a complex undertaking that began more than two years ago. We are extremely pleased that cleanup efforts at the airport site are now about to get underway,” said North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico.  “Our priority throughout this process is and has been the health and safety of our residents.”

A staff report recommending that the scope and price associated with the City’s current contract with Jacobs Consultancy Canada Inc. – which was approved in 2021 – for environmental services related to the remediation project will be brought before Council. If approved, the current $5 million-contract with Jacobs would increase by $3 million. The increase in scope includes remediation design, site supervision, sampling analysis and reporting. As per the $20-million agreement with DND, the City will contribute three percent of the total project cost. Furthermore, costs associated with execution of the remediation work will also be covered under the DND funding agreement.

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PFAS are manmade substances found in many consumer and industrial products, including firefighting foam. Past use of the airport lands for firefighter training between the early 1970s and mid-1990s has been identified as the main source of PFAS on the airport property.  Although firefighting foam containing PFAS was an accepted practice and was in accordance with regulations at that time, its use is very limited today.

Since 2017, the City has been working collaboratively with DND, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), and the Health Unit to support ongoing testing and monitoring for PFAS in Trout Lake, Lees Creek and residential wells in close proximity to the North Bay Jack Garland Airport lands.

The level of PFAS detected in the City’s municipal water supply remains significantly lower than drinking water screening values set out by Health Canada and the interim guidance level provided by the MECP. A long-standing drinking water advisory for Lees Creek remains in place as well as a fish consumption advisory for fish from the creek issued by the MECP.

Featured image credit: Unsplash/Ross Parm

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