Monday, June 22, 2009

Toxic neighbourhood

While running errands today, Darlene and I were passing through Ogden (a neighbourhood in SE Calgary). While we were there, I recalled an area that has been evacuated called Lynnview Ridge. More than 100 houses and condominium units located on a former refinery site were found to have higher than normal levels of lead contamination in the soil and hydro-carbon vapours entering homes. Some homes still stand in Lynnview Ridge, near the site of the old Imperial Oil refinery. In 2001, most residents took buyout packages from the company after the contaminated soil was discovered. In 2007, the company demolished much of the neighbourhood and began remediation work. The Alderman representing the area said he saw an X-ray of the site and was shocked to see what remains underground. "What came as a surprise to me was the amount of refinery structure under the ground. It seems like it was cut off at ground level and all the stuff that was underground was left there."

There are plans to build a golf course and sports fields where the homes used to stand. What struck me about the site was that whole streets and lots now sit empty, fenced off. The homes are gone, basements filled in. Then, very abruptly, the homes continue again. I thought to myself, I wonder what the people who live in those remaining homes must think. One has to assume these folks turned down the buyout offer. I could never imagine what possessed them to stay. All I kept thinking was that the remaining homes must be just as contaminated as the lots that were levelled. I wonder if those that remain fully realize the chances of their homes ever selling for a decent price, given that it could take up to 100 years for the hydrocarbons to be completely released from the soil.

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