Further decontamination work is needed on surplus land in the centre of Hawkesbury.

At the February 23 council meeting, Director of Public Works and Engineering Jonathan Wilson said plans are being made for a second phase of decontamination work at the site of the former École Christ-Roi on Main Street East.

The Town of Hawkesbury took ownership of the land after the school closed.  The building was demolished in 2017 and the town also spent approximately $400,000 to decontaminate the soil on the property. That project was phase one of the decontamination and was caused by a leak from an oil tank that had been in the former school building.

According to Wilson, other contamination is coming from the northwest side of the property near the former Casse-croute Leduc which burned down in 2020.

Wilson said the report recommending phase two of decontamination is still being prepared and will be presented to council for consideration in April. He said it will cost $39,580 for the additional study.

“In large cities like Cornwall, Ottawa, and Montréal, it’s the developers who pay for these studies,” Councillor Jeanne Charlebois remarked.

Wilson said there would be financial disadvantages for the town if it tried to sell the property as-is.

“If we sell it, we’re selling contaminated property,” he said in a later interview.

Wilson said it would be difficult for any developer to secure financing to build on contaminated land.

“Banks won’t approve any loans on that,” he said.

The Christ-Roi site is divided into three parts. Part A is the land where the school building itself stood. Part B includes the adjacent baseball park, and Part C includes the land where the nearby Hawkesbury Dog Park is located.

Wilson said council had previously consented to selling parts A, B, and C but that was before the last municipal election. He intends to ask the new council for its direction so any changes in opinion are considered.

The lands front the Ottawa River. Wilson said changes in flood plain mapping have reduced the amount of property within the flood plain because the narrow part of the river around the Long Sault Bridge decreases the flooding hazard downstream.

In July 2020, a developer’s plan to build a retirement living complex on the former École Christ-Roi property fell through when financing could not be secured. Wilson said there are currently no prospects for sale or development involving the property.