Ottawa Children's Garden soil contamination

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The City’s Environmental Remediation Unit recently found shallow soil contamination at Robert F. Legget Park and the Ottawa Children’s Garden at 321 Main St. in Old Ottawa East. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds were detected at concentrations exceeding provincial standards.

Although these contaminants pose a risk to human health, that possibility is based on conservative lifetime exposure limits. Health effects from exposure to PAHs usually arise only in cases of prolonged exposure.

Over the winter, the City will undertake a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to determine the full extent of the contamination, then develop a plan to implement appropriate risk management measures and/or remediation of the site.

The City and Ottawa Public Health do not consider the current risk to be acute or immediate, and the contaminated soil is unlikely to have a health impact on anyone unless the soil itself was ingested.

Key facts

  • Ottawa Public Health has confirmed that the soil at 321 Main St. poses no immediate risk to residents.
  • Eating fruits or vegetables from the garden over a short period of time should not cause any negative health effects.
  • When the Ottawa Children’s Garden was established in 2009, the soil underwent testing and was within the acceptable provincial levels. These provincial standards were updated in 2011, and allowed levels for most PAH compounds were decreased.
  • Soil samples taken in October 2016 revealed PAH levels exceeding the newer provincial standards.
  • The Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) will collect further information about the soil and determine the full extent of the contamination.
  • Based on the results of the Phase II ESA, the City will develop a plan to implement appropriate risk management measures and/or remediation at the property in 2017.

Questions and answers

What are Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons?
PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals generated from the incomplete combustion of fuels, waste or other organic substances. The dominant sources of PAHs in the environment are associated with human activity and  are commonly found in older urban areas, particularly those used for industrial purposes or manufacturing. PAHs are contained in asphalt, crude oil, coal, ash, coal tar pitch, creosote and vehicle exhaust. They can occur throughout the environment in the air, attached to dust particles, or as solids in soil or sediment.

Three questions about the central library's proposed site

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Catherine McKenney and Tobi Nussbaum, Ottawa Citizen

The prospect of a new central public library in our city is an exciting one. Successful central libraries offer citizens a one-stop shop of diverse civic and cultural life. Across the country, new libraries have breathed additional life into downtown cores, from Vancouver to Halifax. In that context, the recommendation to move Ottawa’s new Central Library from the downtown core to the edge of LeBreton Flats raises important questions that Ottawa residents need to consider before the Ottawa Library Board convenes at the end of January. Here are three questions worth asking.

First, how was the feedback from the extensive public consultation reflected in the recommendation? The three highest-ranked criteria during the online public consultations on location were that the site be easy to access: for people with physical disabilities, by foot and by bus. On the face, it is not clear how a site separated from downtown by an escarpment, further removed from the residents who live or work in Centretown, and located more than two km from the crossroads of the city’s bus routes at the Rideau Centre reflects these priorities. Although the recommended site is close to an LRT station – a necessary condition for any future site – library-user surveys indicate that  81 per cent of current users arrive by foot.

Second, how would the recommended site serve the three identified target demographic groups: local residents, other residents of Ottawa, and visitors? Demographic analysis suggests that even assuming LeBreton Flats is fully developed, in 20 years it will still have less than half the population of Centretown. For other Ottawa residents, any location on the LRT would provide transit access. For the almost 120,000 downtown workers who make up one-quarter of the visits to today’s Central Library, the proposed site would be harder to access. The most visited sites in Ottawa are clustered close to the Hill and include Parliament, the ByWard Market and the Rideau Centre.

Will remodelled Bank Street south mirror the Glebe? Business owners hope not

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City unveils proposed redesign plan for five-year overhaul

Bank Street redesign coming
Residents listen as Emmett Proulx, a transportation planning designer with MMM Group, explains proposed plans to redesign Bank Street from Riverside Drive to Ledbury Avenue during a consultation meeting at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre in Alta Vista on Dec. 6.

By Erin McCracken, Ottawa Community News

Business owners worry the proposed redesign of Bank Street between Riverside Drive and Ledbury Avenue is an attempt to import the Glebe’s model of bistros, boutiques and cafes farther south, where there are car dealerships, mechanic garages, plazas and large grocery stores.

“Fundamentally, what they’re doing is they’re trying to change the nature of businesses (along) Bank Street south, something that’s more Glebe-ish,” said Nikki Dignard, whose husband owns a family dentistry practice on Bank, between Heron Road and Alta Vista Drive.

“How many Glebes do you need? How many Westboros do you need? There still has to be the bread and butter to service the 70 per cent of the population,” Dignard said during a public consultation meeting at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre on Dec. 6.

The presentation offered a first look at the scope of the multi-stage reconstruction project, which is expected to begin in the latter half of 2018 and take an estimated five years to complete.

As an arterial main street, Bank carries a lot of traffic, though in the future a slight reduction is expected when the Trillium O-Train light-rail transit line is expanded south, said Patrick Hill, project manager with consulting firm MMM Group.

“But we also wanted to have that Main Street feel of businesses and an active place for people and cyclists,” he said, referring to the transformation of Main Street in Old Ottawa South into the city’s first complete street.

It now features cycle tracks — segregated bike lanes at curb height — which are coming to Bank Street in Billings Bridge, Alta Vista, Heron Park, Ridgemont and Ledbury-Banff.

Bank is recognized as a crosstown bikeway, but business owners doubt cycling lanes will bring in more clients given the nature of the “destination businesses” there, said Dignard.

“This whole idea about riding a bike – it’s supposed to be a pleasurable experience,” said her husband, Ted Henike. “Coming to a dentist while riding your bike? It doesn’t equate.”

Still, the proposed plan, which was identified as one of 13 capital construction projects in the 2012 Bank Street community design plan, was applauded by some of the 50 people at the meeting, particularly for the cycle tracks.

“They need to do something,” said Alta Vista resident Suzanne Lafrance, who used to cycle along Bank Street to Riverside Drive but found it dangerous.

Ottawa Hospital should prioritize health over parking

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By David Chernushenko, Special to the Ottawa Citizen

It seems that a hospital site solution has been brokered. What has not yet been resolved, or even adequately questioned, is the oversized surface parking "requirement" put forward from the outset as an essential criterion. That's a 1970s vision for a 21st-century hospital. We can, and must do better than repeating the mistakes of the past.

Let me start by stating the obvious: Most people don't take the bus to hospital in an emergency or if they have mobility issues. No one expects physicians on call to use public transit. Those visiting loved ones may not choose to take the LRT — unless they are among the 15 percent of Ottawa households who do not own a car.

But even if we assume that nobody will take public transit for urgent visits or if they are not ambulatory, that still leaves the massive majority of trips to hospital taken by staff, visitors and clinic patients. Given the choice, many — no, not all — would choose transit.

In the debate over the best location for a relocated Civic Campus, we've heard plenty from those who insist on easy road access, ample surface parking, and no traffic congestion. But we've heard much less about some other obvious questions:

Should a hospital of the 21st century be built for and around the private automobile, on the assumption that almost everyone can, will or should drive?

Would the Ottawa Hospital not do staff, patients and the broader community a valuable service by relocating to a place that offers frequent, convenient transit service — like the future LRT line — and is easily reachable by foot or bike as well as by car?

Shouldn't an institution dedicated to health actively encourage cleaner and healthier modes of transportation, and aim to reduce private vehicle use for non-emergency trips, as supported by Ottawa Public Health policies?

A hospital should be easily accessible to as many residents as possible, including those who cannot or choose not to drive. Encouraging people to use public or active transportation when possible also benefits anyone who drives by choice or necessity, by taking cars off the road.

The NCC, in its very public process, heard clearly from many citizens that protecting the Experimental Farm and its research fields is a priority, and that transit access should prevail over expansive parking lots.

The Sir John Carling site now being recommended by elected leaders, and apparently acceptable to the Ottawa Hospital board, is much nearer the Trillium O-Train line, and thus more accessible than the current hospital. But the matter of surface parking remains unaddressed.

Surface parking represents archaic thinking and runs counter to City of Ottawa policy direction. Reducing the need for parking — and accommodating required parking in multi-storey garages (like most big cities) — frees up more room for healthcare facilities and green space, both of which would benefit patients.

Prioritizing road access over transit, and failing to challenge the notion that all staff and visitors must drive, would harm us all by increasing congestion and air pollution. It also contradicts the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association, and World Health Organization's climate change policy positions.

Our new hospital's location and design should support the policies of all three levels of government to shift away from the automobile as the favoured mode of transportation for environmental and health reasons.

The new hospital must carry us forward into a transit-oriented, low-carbon future. Emphasizing parking and car travel is out of step with 21st-century municipal planning, current health promotion practices, and all city policies.

Ottawa deserves a great hospital served by great transportation options.

Councillor David Chernushenko is Chair of the Environment and Climate Protection Committee and a member of the Board of Health. This article represents his personal opinion.