Waterfront Toronto is taking a new innovative approach to managing soil and we hope to change the way impacted soil is dealt with in Ontario and across the country.
As part of its commitment to sustainable development, Waterfront Toronto is striving to raise the bar on brownfield remediation. To deal with the almost 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of waterfront land requiring remediation prior to redevelopment, we are planning to use the latest and best technologies to, wherever possible, treat and reuse soil, rather than "digging and dumping", which simply transfers the contamination and problems to landfill sites. Soil recycling is an opportunity to turn contaminated soil into a resource instead of a liability.
The revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront is one of the largest urban brownfield remediation projects in the world. Renewal of the waterfront depends on our ability to deal with soil that has been impacted by decades of industrial uses, and by infilling long ago when environmental standards were not as stringent as today.
Remediation efforts within the waterfront include the excavation and removal of contaminated soil, which is expected to generate in excess of two-million cubic metres of impacted soil.
In our soil management approach, soils are considered a resource that needs to be managed in a sustainable manner, soil will be recycled to the greatest extent possible within the waterfront area. Recycling soil would help ensure that sufficient soils are available for revitalization activities, and reduce the need to import soils from elsewhere.
Waterfront Toronto is currently conducting a pilot soil recycling project that is innovative in the Ontario context, and one of few in Canada. The pilot soil recycling facility in the Port Lands was established to determine the viability of treating and reusing impacted soils and is the first step in the larger plan to treat contaminated soil to an environmental condition that allows it to be reused in future residential, parkland and commercial areas.
The pilot will enable Waterfront Toronto to assess the effectiveness and economic performance of the technologies and optimize operations before developing a full-scale facility.
Learn more about the pilot project and how soil washing works.
Toronto’s waterfront lands have an industrial history that dates back to the 1820s. But in the late 1790s, Toronto’s waterfront lands were already providing important access for commercial ships three to five kilometres upstream in the Lower Don River.
Between 1819 and 1827, waterfront lands in Toronto were sold to private entities to raise funds for a new hospital in the town of York. Increased industrialization accompanied the transfer of waterfront property to private interests.
In the early 1900s, railroad companies acquired much of the waterfront lands and converted them from housing to supporting services, such as foundries, tanneries, fuel storage and rolling stock manufacturers.
Manufacturing along the waterfront peaked in the 1960s and was subsequently followed by a progressive loss of jobs over the next three decades. Industrial decline since the 1960s has left a patchwork of underutilized lands.
Learn more about Waterfront Toronto's Soil Management Approach