Middle Harbour Cleanup Completed

Middle Harbour Cleanup Completed

By Robert Hawkes

Earlier this year work was completed on an environmental cleanup of the middle harbour near Laurel Point. From 1906 until the early 1970s a paint factory in the area had resulted in heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that had persisted and created harm to the marine ecosystem.

William Pendray had originally operated a soap factory near the grounds of what is now the Empress. In 1906 Canadian Pacific Railway purchased that property as part of the hotel development, and Pendray had a new factory constructed at Laurel Point that included both a soap factory and a paint manufacturing plant. In 1913 Pendray sold his soap business to Lever Brothers and concentrated on the paint business, renaming it BAPCO (British American Paint Company).

The BAPCO business was financially successful and at its peak had revenue of over a million dollars a year and employed 150 people. It was the largest paint and stain facility west of Toronto. You can read about the history of the plant here: https://www.victoriaharbourhistory.com/early-industry/bapco-paints/

  Dredging near Laurel Point. Photo by Robert Hawkes.

Dredging near Laurel Point. Photo by Robert Hawkes.

While BAPCO was commercially successful, it resulted in chemical risks not clearly understood at the time. PCBs were first used in North American manufacturing starting in 1929 (although PCB like chemicals had been created starting in 1865), including use in some pigments, paints and stains. In North America PCBs were banned in new materials and equipment starting in 1977 (and gradually phased out of existing electrical equipment). 

The recently completed environmental work at Laurel Point included dredging out the contaminated material and then replacing it with clean fill. The contaminated soil was moved to an environmental processing facility for proper treatment and storage of residual material. The federal government funded the project, and Public Services and Procurement Canada managed it in collaboration with the harbourmaster.

The value of the contract was just over five million dollars. The contractor for the work was Milestone Environmental Contracting. They have environmental remediation projects across Canada, and operate from offices in Ottawa, Toronto and Langley, B.C. During the work, about 1200 cubic meters of contaminated seabed were removed - that is equivalent to the volume of more than one million one litre containers! The work was carried out over several months starting in November and is now complete.

  The BAPCO paint factory. Image 1-29828 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives.

The BAPCO paint factory. Image 1-29828 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives.

In announcing the Victoria harbour cleanup project, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, said "This work is important for the well-being of the marine wildlife that call Victoria Harbour their home and feeding ground." Information on the project and contract are available at https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/victoria-harbour-cleanup-contract-awarded-to-milestone-environmental-contracting-inc-654690553.html.

Then and Now: Johnson Street Bridge

Then and Now: Johnson Street Bridge

James Bay Weather Station

James Bay Weather Station