A worker in full protective gear at the Saskatchewan Crescent East and 17th Street East site where contaminated soil was found. Trelle Burdeniuk/NewsTalk Radio.
While working to fix the sloping riverbank on Saskatchewan Crescent East, near 17th Street East, city crews unearthed contaminated soil.
Andrew Hildebrandt, storm water utility manager with the City of Saskatoon, believed the contaminants could be from many years ago when some areas around the river were used as dumping grounds.
"There was a time in our history when there wasn't the same consideration given to the environment and areas along the riverbank were used to dump all sorts of material ... there's a very good chance that some of this, from the information we have from archivists, might date back prior to the First World War."
One resident whose home faces the digging area said she had even been offered Coke bottles by one of the workers who found the old bottles while digging at the site.
The soil for this project is routinely sent for testing and last week it came back with red flags.
"They were tested and found to exceed a couple of Sask. Ministry of Environment guidelines," Hildebrandt said, adding the contaminants include hydrocarbons and some metals.
On Monday, crews were proceeding with construction while wearing full yellow suits and breathing masks.
Residents in the area received letters from the city notifying them about the contamination.
A letter sent to people about contaminated soil near the riverbank on Sask Cres. E on Oct. 18.
Hildebrandt said there is no danger for anyone walking by or living in the area to breathe in the contaminants, but he said avoiding the site is recommended.
"The site is fenced and all residents and passersby are asked to detour first of all for safety with respect to moving equipment, but also for potential of the contamination," he said.
Hildebrandt said the contaminated soil is along a stretch of about 250 feet and at a depth of 13 feet.
"The impacted area, generally speaking is spread out, but it's not in any particularly concentrated areas."
He said the contaminated soil has been moved to a contractors' stockpile yard and will be taken to a proper disposal site. Any further contaminated soil discovered while working will be covered with a tarp or removed.
Hildebrandt added contaminated soil below the digging area will not be disturbed.
The discovery of contaminated soil did cause a small delay to the project of fixing the slope and installing a drainage trench and lightweight foam to take pressure off the riverbank.
However, Hildebrandt said crews are back to working on the slope and he's still confident the project will finish this year if the weather holds.
A contaminated soil site at Saskatchewan Crescent East and 17 Street East on Oct. 28, 2013.