If you have not checked out Port Hope’s historic harbour in the last year, you will be surprised and amazed what has and is happening there. The most obvious change is the former Canadian Fire Fighters Museum located at 95 Mill Street South. It has been demolished leaving only an empty lot. This museum was located in a quaint Quonset hut that once served as a storage garage for some of the town works department equipment. Although this building had no heritage value it was an appropriate location and building located on the Ganaraska River for displaying heritage fire equipment. Because the building was never heated, it was operated as a museum only from May to October and closed in the winter months for more than thirty years attracting five thousand visitors a season.
It should be noted here that the reason for this Port Hope icons demise is the multiyear ongoing cleanup of the historic low lever waste of uranium and radium located on the museum site and eight hundred sites throughout the town from the former Eldorado Nuclear conversion facility which was closed in the late 1980’s. As early as 2003, proposals were made for a business plan for a new location for the museum. The selection process would be done in three phases. Phase one would include necessary building renovations, interior and exterior with upgrades to mechanical and electrical work. Phase two, administrative equipment and furnishings like computers, desks and work stations. Phase three, revamping of flexible workshop areas. The cost at that time would be about two million dollars.
Originally, the perfect location would have had the museum located across the Ganaraska River to the abandoned former Crane building located on the harbour’s centre pier. An existing large, historic brick building with plenty of space and parking for an enlarged museum would seem to be a perfect site for a national tribute to fire fighters past and present. This site after much negotiations between museum and town interests was soon quashed. The harbour cleanup and the cost of salvaging this building would be too high. The buildings at present were for many years used by Cameco for storage and are to be demolished and the centre pier will become a staging site during dredging of the harbour. Work beginning this year will include the installation of the second wave attenuator in the outer harbour and the rehabilitation of harbour walls. The full cleanup of the harbour is expected to take about five years.
A second preferred location would have the museum moved up the street to the former Canadian Tire building at 10 Robertson Street. This building with three times the space as the current museum site could host fifteen thousand visitors a year and plenty of parking spaces and still be in the downtown area. After two years of effort to purchase this building it was sold to other interests. Two other sites were considered, the current fire station on Ontario Street when it is to be eventually moved to a new station sometime in the future had the drawbacks of the building size and lack of parking and a building in the Port Hope Business Park. The hunt is now on for a new space and when it is a massive fundraising will be on to buy it.
According to the Port Hope Area Initiative, the Centre Pier of the harbor is owned by the Municipality of Port Hope and is currently leased by the Cameco Corporation. In June this year (2019), the first load of historic waste was moved from the Centre Pier and placed into long-term storage. This waste was currently stored under that huge black tarp so noticeable on the pier near several abandoned buildings. That tarp, waste and most of the old buildings are today gone! The harbour dredging will start sometime after Cameco completes the removal of the buildings on the Centre Pier. There are two other temporary storage sites under tarps that the public doesn’t normally see in Port Hope. The Pine Street North Extension and the Sewage Treatment Plant on Lake Street will be removed by years end as well at a cost of approximately $2.6 million dollars.
The waste hidden under the black tarps were low level wastes which were the by-product of uranium and radium refining operations by Eldorado, a former Crown Corporation from 1933-1988. These tailings were given away for free to local citizens and were used in back yards and building foundations etc. thus were spread around the community. It should be noted here that there is no indications the low levels of radiation are dangerous. Some of the waste was a result of discarded soil, rock and liquids generated when uranium or radium were extracted from uranium years ago. Refined radiation was first used in treating cancer and uranium is said to have aided the U.S. Manhattan Project in the first atomic bombs. The harbour will be remediated by hydraulic dredging were the sediment is pumped into geo synthetic containment tubes on the Centre Pier for dewatering and transported by truck to the long term waste site. The harbour walls will be supported or replaced in advance of dredging.
The area wastes are trucked to the Port Hope Area Initiatives long term storage facility south of the 401 Hwy. between Brand Road and Baulch Road west of Welcome. The waste site is an engineered above ground mound which will isolate the material by entirely encasing it in multiple layers of natural and specially manufactured materials including geo synthetic clay, sand and soil. This site is designed to house as much as 2,000,000 cubic meters of waste from the town at a cost of over $1.28 billion, the largest waste cleanup in Canadian history.
Remedial and restoration plans for the Centre Pier include removal of temporary storage and buildings at which time top soil and mulch will be placed on all previously excavated areas, an erosion control blanket will be placed and staked as required. Final grades will be attained and graded to permit surface water runoff. The final restorations to the development are to be made in consolation with the stakeholders and the Municipality of Port Hope Waterfront Plan.
Now for some good news at the harbour. Port Hope’s historic Little Railway Station formerly located at 10 Hayward Street has been wisely moved from the harbour to a downtown location at15 Elias Street on Lent’s Lane just steps south of Walton Street. This move was required because the station would have to be moved from its former location because the Port Hope Area Initiative was about to start remedial work at the site. Built in the 1850’s, the one storey Venacular style building was the original Grand Trunk Railway at the time the first viaduct bridge was constructed. In 1980 the Municipality of Port Hope recognized its heritage value. The local art group Critical Mass with the help of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario worked together to make this move happen.
At this time it was estimated the move would cost $7,500. In June 2018 the station was moved, the actual moving cost was $10,500 with the added cost of $60,000 needed for the foundation for the station. Funds from the new Main Street Revitalization Initiative for which the town received $52,000 was money well spent. An interesting hand-written sign from the Critical Mass web site proclaims the following… “Rules: Number 1, No farting in the fort; Number 2, No ignoring the rules.”