Saskatoon lady needs to search out new use for contaminated web site

A Saskatoon woman wants answers after discovering a contaminated abandoned lot in the Riversdale area.

Karen Farmer learned of the Imperial Oil lot, between 19th and 20th Street and Avenue J and K, while working on a location search for the city centre school project.

The lot borders Optimist Park, older homes and some new multi family dwellings.

“It’s a contaminated site that has been sitting here for 25 years, close to the downtown of Saskatoon,” Farmer told CTV News.

Farmer wants to raise awareness about lots like these in the hopes that they can be put to more productive use for the neighbourhoods.

“I think they want to pretend its not there. It’s a large area and we need housing. We need affordable housing,” she said.

Imperial Oil said in an email to CTV News that it started operating the site in 1911 as a bulk fuel plant and service station.

It was decommissioned in 1996 which involved the removal of structures and underground tanks.

Since 2010, the company says more than 760 sites have been put back into use.

Spokesperson Keri Scobie said “there are no near term plans for this site.”

The province has a list of hazardous waste sites online. More than 200 are in the Saskatoon area alone, including the Riversdale site.

Part of the original lot it is now used by CHEP Good Food.

“We run an internship and education program every summer for youth aged 15-30, bringing them together around growing good food,” Zoe Arnold, CHEP urban agriculture coordinator said.

The CHEP group grows mostly vegetables there, but they are grown in either plastic bins or have a plastic barrier underneath.

Arnold says when the site was first used for gardening, there was a contamination test done and it came in very high.

“There is potential contamination of the soil, so hydrocarbons could be released in the soil for instance so we wouldn’t be able to grow in the ground here,” Arnold said.

Farmer wants the city increase taxes on lots like this to make it less appealing to leave it sit as is.

According to the city, such commercial lots had a property tax bill of about $106,000 this year.

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