A hub for Ukrainian refugees, the former Jakobstettel property in St. Jacobs has also been a hive of activity as workers dig up some contaminants linked to an old railway spur line that passed through the area.
The digging echoes remediation work done last year at neighbouring Sprucelawn Apartments For Seniors, where they’re building a new addition to the facility.
In fact, it was the construction going on next door that prompted the work this summer at the Jakobstettel site, said Pat George, president of GA Masonry, which owns the property.
“Apparently there was a rail line that ran through there. Sprucelawn next door had done the same type of thing previously, and so it seemed like a good time to get this done while there’s still construction and disruption going on next door,” he said.
The soil was being removed from a strip of land relative to the route of a rail line. The same was done at the Sprucelawn site
“We did have some soil remediation when we excavated last year. There was a spur line going through our property but it is unclear whether the soil we had to remediate was as a result of that or simply ‘bad fill’ that might have been used at one time,” Dan Driedger, executive director of Beyond Housing, said in an email.
While the work involves contaminants, perhaps metal bits related to the rail line, it isn’t being done under the auspices of any provincial remediation order.
“The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has not been made aware of any off-site contamination in the area of Isabella Street in St. Jacobs, nor has the ministry required any work to be done by any property owner in the area. It’s the ministry’s understanding that this remedial work is being undertaken privately by the property owner,” said ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler.
“The property owner is not required to notify the ministry about contamination at the site unless it causes or may cause an off-site adverse effect to human health or the natural environment.”
The discovery of the contaminants came as news to the owners, who acquired the property about four years ago.
“It came as a surprise when we found out that it needed to be done at the neighbouring property. I believe Sprucelawn did the same thing. We figured it’s probably an opportune time to do it, because it will have to be done someday,” said George, adding there are currently no plans to develop the property.
“I would say eventually, at some point, we will figure out what we want to do there. I guess either sell the property or come up with a redevelopment plan, but right now, we have too many other things on the go,” he said. “We think there’s a very big need to help the Ukrainian people, and that’s what we’re doing, letting them stay there for free.”
The previous owners, GoldenEye Developments, did submit a plan to Woolwich council in 2018, proposing to build some 27 homes on a 3.25-acre portion of the 4.2-acre property at 16 Isabella St.