Federal cash coming for White Hills cleanup: O’Leary

Steve Bartlett
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Sheilagh O'Leary — File Photo

The federal government is on the verge of announcing a cleanup of American military waste in the White Hills, according to a St. John’s councillor.

“I’m delighted,” Sheilagh O’Leary said Thursday. “I’m absolutely delighted because that’s been a long overdue issue.”

The Telegram published a series of stories about the waste last September. It was left behind by the U.S. Army, which operated Fort Pepperell at the foot of the White Hills from 1941 to 1961,

Potential environmental hazards — including a sealed 45-gallon drum full of an unknown substance, rust-coloured soil and what appears to be discarded medical equipment — were spotted during short hikes in the area, a portion of which is listed in the federal database of contaminated sites.

The area is now the responsibility of Public Works and Government Services. The federal department said the waste presents little or no risk to human health or the environment.

St. John’s City Council met with Public Works and discussed the mess last fall after the stories appeared.

O’Leary said Thursday she’s continued corresponding with Glen Hynes, a director with the department, since that meeting.

In recent emails, the councillor said, Hynes has indicated it looks like funding to clean up the waste is on its way.

“They’re just waiting for the funding announcement to come down, but they are making preparations right now for the excavation and the cleanup of the debris in the site,” she said.

Hynes was away from the office Thursday and unavailable to confirm or deny money was imminent. A communications official was trying to get some answers as of The Telegram’s deadline, which was early because of the Canada Day holiday.

O’Leary commended Hynes and his department for being proactive on the issue.

The councillor didn’t know if there would be enough funding to clean up the entire site, but she did say the remediation that’s done will be completed before winter sets in.


Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: U.S. Army, Public Works and Government Services

Geographic location: White Hills

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Recent comments

  • Tedankhamen
    July 04, 2011 - 01:27

    Watch out Sheilagh - the "sealed 45-gallon drum full of an unknown substance" can only be a zombie. Ship that right back to Washington!!

  • Kieran
    July 03, 2011 - 17:53

    That's the thanks we get from the Yanks for our letting them use the land. Isn't it a stroke of luck we never joined the US in '49! They would probably have us forced out by now and a nuclear weapons facility would be built here. Oh, I AM glad to be Canadian!!

  • Saucy Face
    July 02, 2011 - 09:13

    Hey Sheilagh, did you get the okay from Shannie, Peg Norman and Greg Malone to come out in support of this? After all, that old garbage has to be considered historical by now. You better check girl; don't want to upset the Heritage committee by making it look like something from 2070.

  • pfmurphy
    July 02, 2011 - 07:44

    I'm surprised that such a blanket statement that "the waste presents little or no risk to human health or the environment" can be made since this was a military base (Air Force, although it started out as an Army base in 1941) pre the known risks of PCBs and the like. Perhaps the statement means the so-far-discovered material? A buried, rusty 45 gallon drum of an unknown substance certainly suggests to me there is a duty of caution and further investigation over all the area of the base,especially when so many new houses are to be constructed.