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.