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Phase1 - Environmental Site Assessment



General Warehouse (SCU 12)


Nestled between the Rail Finishing Mill and the Rail Head Hardening building, this parcel of land is occupied by the steel plant General Warehouse and the South Substation (Figure 5-1). The Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway bounds the area to the north, and the Victoria Road overpass borders the area to the east. The DOMTAR and Coke Ovens sites lay approximately 20 metres to the east, beyond Victoria Road.

The area has historically been used for warehousing and steel finishing. The parcel includes the General Warehouse, the 8 Bay Extension and the South Substation. The General Warehouse was built around 1960, and was truncated when the 8 Bay Rail Finishing Mill was constructed in 1989. Prior to the 1960s a few shacks were the sole occupants of the parcel.

Throughout its life, the General Warehouse was used for electrical, mechanical, chemical and safety supply storage for incoming products used at the plant. The building is constructed of a combination of concrete, painted concrete block and steel. The roof is of steel beam construction with fibre glass insulation. A mix of fluorescent and incandescent lighting was observed in the building. Potential asbestos containing floor tile was observed in the offices of the warehouse.

The majority of products were removed from the General Warehouse in 2001. Chemical and other products that had typically been stored in the warehouse included various paints, coatings, diesel fuel improver, plastic cement, oxidizers, spectrus, drums of grease, cleaning supplies and safety supplies.

Drum storage occurred at the loading dock area of the General Warehouse. These products included Petrosol, electrical insulating oil, compressor oil, gear oil, lube oil, and general purpose oil. Surface staining was noted around the ramp and the loading dock area. Miscellaneous debris including empty drums, pallets, and electrical wire was observed outside of the building. Three small cylinder-type transformers are mounted on the north side exterior of the building.

The “New” South Substation, constructed in 1995, is located to the east of the Rail Head Hardening Building. The substation replaced the “Old” South Substation formerly located in the same area. The substation consists of a fenced compound containing transformers and electrical distribution equipment. Access inside the fenced compound was not possible, as the facilities are active. No evidence of spills or soil staining was noted from outside the fenced compound. Access was permitted to the South Substation control building. The steel-frame industrial building was constructed in the early 1995. The transformer and alarm panel associated with the South Substation is serviced by Nova Scotia Power Inc. SYSCO is responcible for switch gear and protective relays.Herbicides were apparently used to suppress vegetation in transformer compounds from time to time (pers. comm., J. MacLean).

On May 25, 1994 a fire occurred in the “Old” South Substation that was formerly located on the same site as the “New” South Substation. Six PCB-containing transformers were involved in the fire. After the fire was extinguished, a visual inspection of the transformers was completed by NSDOE officials. The insulators on the top of all six transformers were damaged allowing vaporized transformer oil to escape. According to the SYSCO Environment Department incident report, approximately 207 L of PCB - containing oil was lost during this fire. After inspection the transformers were transferred to SYSCO’s PCB storage building for future disposal.

The subsequent environmental sampling program revealed only three results in excess of the applicable criteria. These samples, collected from the surface of the transformer cabinet and the interior of the north wall of the substation building, exceeded the allowable dioxin concentration. No PCBs or dioxins were identified in soil samples collected in the area between the substation and Whitney Pier (pers. comm., J. MacLean). A subsequent demolition and cleanup program was completed by Sanexen Environmental Services in 1994 to remove electrical equipment, debris, and the substation building itself.


Looking East at the Coke Ovens sites, with the General Warehouse and Rail Finishing Mill at the bottom of the photo (EDM)

The 8 Bay Extension is integrated with the Rail Finishing Mill (RFM) described in Section 5.2.2. The recent construction of the building and presence of minimal processing equipment indicates that there are few environmental issues associated with the building.  

Testing was performed on the DOMTAR and Coke Ovens sites in 2000 and 2001 on behalf of DTPW. The Phase II ESA report for this work states that “widespread primarily organic (PAH) contamination was observed in surface and subsurface soils, as well as both fill and bedrock groundwaters collected throughout the Domtar site, with the exception of the northeast corner.”

The report later states “Within the shallow bedrock this contamination is being transported generally off-site to the west-southwest onto the Steel Plant and Coke Oven Brook Connector.” The report goes on to suggest that standing water in the former tar lagoon on the Domtar site provides hydraulic pressure that may help to drive contamination onto the SYSCO property. Other hypotheses suggest that the coal tar may have migrated vertically downward through fractured bedrock. Since no testing was performed on SYSCO property in this area, the extent and magnitude of the impacts anticipated by JDAC Environment is not known.

The East Perimeter Road transects SCU 12. It is noted that used oil was often used for dust suppression on roadways on the steel plant property.

  Potential Environmental Issues  

Potential hazardous building material and issues associated with the General Warehouse may include lead-based paints, asbestos-containing materials, PCB-containing transformers, chemical and lubricant storage, and general waste storage inside and outside of the building. The 8 Bay Extension and South Substation buildings present the possibility of lubricant storage, lead-based paint, ozone-depleting substances, mercury-containing equipment and lighting, and chemical storage. Asbestos material and PCB-containing equipment are not anticipated to be present due to the age of the facility. Inspections and testing will be required to confirm this prediction.

Potential environmental issues associated with soil and groundwater on the site consist of petroleum hydrocarbon, PCB, herbicide, and solvent impacts as a result of historic on-site activities, as well as heavy metal, petroleum hydrocarbon, PAH and HNC impacts to soil and groundwater as a result of contamination migrating from the DOMTAR and Coke Ovens site.


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