EDITORIAL: Contamination risk a concern

City core was in part created by dumping trash as fill for ‘reclamation’.

My, how things have changed.

These days, Nanaimo is envied for its ‘pristine’ waterfront. We’re praised for how attractive and accessible the city’s shoreline is and local residents are fiercely protective of any threat to the maritime treasure.

Yet, not so long ago, the ‘treasure’ was anything but pristine. And locals were hardly protective of it.

In fact, a good portion of the city’s downtown core, especially the low-lying areas near the water, were below the shoreline.

Archival photos (see today’s front page) paint a vastly different scene than the pretty picture viewed by today’s inhabitants.

A vast expanse south of the Bastion was once a mucky, trash-strewn waterline, while the Terminal ravine, sometimes referred to as the ‘Terminal Trench’, was seasonally submerged.

How the area was ‘reclaimed’ into real estate seems not to be well-known, other than that a wide spectrum of material – including everything from old appliances to coal slag to household garbage to actual dirt and rock – was tossed in as fill, apparently with little regulation.

Excavations for development of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre unearthed some clues as to what occurred. But we know public sentiment regarding what constitutes proper care for the environment did not yet embrace conservation and preservation.

As a push begins to assess the risk from past actions and educate property owners, it is relevant to give due consideration to just how far we’ve come.

Nanaimo can still be proud of its waterfront and the city in general.

But it should also be looking to make all efforts to ensure the mistakes of the past are adequately addressed and any damage is appropriately remedied.