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District of North Van to dig up 1960s dump for new fire hall

Old Dollarton Road landfill to become new fire hall and park

This story has been updated

One day, it will be the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s shiny new headquarters and parkland. But right now, it’s a dump – literally.

The District of North Vancouver is exhuming a 2.8-hectare swath of the Maplewood neighbourhood that the municipality used as its landfill from 1960 until the late 1980s.

All told, contractors are expected to haul 60,000 cubic metres of leftover junk from public works projects from the ground at the end of Old Dollarton Road.

“I’m told that’s 5,000 to 6,000 truckloads of material,” said Nicola Chevallier, section manager for facilities in the District of North Vancouver. “It's a real mix of concrete, asphalt, culverts and telephone poles and things as well as a bunch of soil and rocks. It’s a real mess of landfill debris from when the district was developing back in the '60s and '70s.”

Test digs have also found pockets of soils contaminated by hydrocarbons and heavy metals.

Disposing of waste in such a way now would be unthinkable – and illegal, Chevallier said, with much more stringent regulations in place.

“We know better now,” she said.

The plan is to remove the refuse, sort out anything that can be reused or recycled, and take the remainder to provincially approved dump sites.

After the landfill was decommissioned and covered over, the land was reclaimed by trees and shrubs. But a walk around the site shows the trees aren’t healthy thanks to a thin layer of questionable soil, and the area is a mess of invasive species. There are also deposits of garbage left over from bush parties, illegal dumping and homeless camps.

“The only thing green is the English ivy,” said Matt Schofield, facilities project manager for district.

Once land is up to current provincial standards for environmental remediation and the soil has been replaced, the district intends to make the northern portion of the site a dedicated park.

Over the longer term, it will be better habitat for birds and other wildlife, and it should result in better hydrological conditions for the Maplewood Conservation Area immediately across Dollarton Highway.

The site is now fenced off and crews are preparing for four to six months of heavy lifting. Some garbage has already been removed and district staff have transplanted some of the healthy native species growing there, including sword ferns.

The budget for the project is $8 million.

The property, which reaches as far north as the as the Windridge escarpment, was last assessed at just over $57 million.

The fire hall itself is in the design stage right now and will go to council to tender a contract soon, but the district did not want to wait to get started on the dump cleanup, Chevallier said.

“We’re really excited about this project because it just feels like the right thing to be doing,” she said.