The Rideau Canal, which recently suffered a blue-green algae bloom that drew national attention, has now been added to a federal registry of contaminated sites because of a history of industrial uses that has left a legacy of toxic chemicals in the waterway's mucky sediments. Cassandra Wood, Centretown New

Rideau Canal’s toxic sediments land it on federal list of contaminated sites

By Mike Barry

The downtown Ottawa section of the Rideau Canal flows over contaminated soil, according to an announcement made by Parks Canada on Nov. 2. The area, which runs from the Ottawa Locks next to the Bytown Museum to the Bronson Avenue outlet of Dows Lake, contains environmentally harmful and carcinogenic metals, such as lead.

Parks Canada has stated there is low risk to human health and recreational activities on the canal, such as skating, will not be affected. However, construction projects will be proceeding with caution, in order to avoid disturbing the contaminated sediment.

Following the announcement, the federal environment ministry confirmed that fish in the canal will be tested for PCBs, mercury and other metals.

Parks Canada had revealed in April that it was testing the mucky sediments along the canal after restoration work on the UNESCO World Heritage structure had raised questions about potential contamination from historical industrial activity along the waterway.

The results confirmed hazardous levels of contaminants and the canal has been added to an inventory of federal sites that will require remediation measures or other steps to ensure the public is safeguarded from toxic chemicals.