Container inspection facility planned for Halifax's Fairview Cove terminal

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The Halifax Port Authority plans to construct a large building as well as new roads, an asphalt compound and a truck gate at its Fairview Cove Container Terminal. (Dave Irish/CBC - image credit)
The Halifax Port Authority plans to construct a large building as well as new roads, an asphalt compound and a truck gate at its Fairview Cove Container Terminal. (Dave Irish/CBC - image credit)

The latest stage of a project that will see the further development of the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax's Bedford Basin will have no significant adverse environmental impact, says the Crown corporation responsible for the project.

The Halifax Port Authority plans to construct an 11-bay, 2,700-square-metre building to be used by Canada Border Services Agency for examining shipping containers at the terminal. A truck gate — where electronic scanners help keep track of containers and their cargo — will also be built, along with a large asphalt compound and new roads, including one that will connect the project to Africville Road.

The new infrastructure will be constructed on land that has been created by infilling the Bedford Basin over the past several years. In total, nearly four hectares of the infilled land will be paved to accommodate the project.

As part of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada's approval process, the port authority was required to assess the potential effects of the container examination facility and truck gate.

Port authority spokesperson Lane Farguson said an environmental consultant hired by the port authority concluded there would be no significant adverse environmental effects. The port authority would not elaborate on how that conclusion was reached, saying only that the determination was made through the impact assessment process.

In order to mitigate potential adverse environmental effects, silt fences will be installed around the perimeter to prevent silt-laden water and debris from getting into the basin, vehicles will be equipped with mufflers to reduce noise and lighting will be designed to reduce light pollution.

Project will reduce truck traffic, says port authority

Right now, when the CBSA selects containers to inspect, they are trucked to the Burnside business park and then back to the terminal before they move on to their destination. Farguson said having a container examination facility at the terminal will reduce truck traffic over the MacKay Bridge and in the Burnside area.

"It will reduce the associated mileage and greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "It is a small step toward a slightly smaller carbon footprint."

The project involves the construction of an 11-bay container examination facility, seen in the above rendering as a brown building in the centre of the photo.
The project involves the construction of an 11-bay container examination facility, seen in the above rendering as a brown building in the centre of the photo.

Members of the public were invited to comment on the potential environmental impact of the project in November and December, but Farguson said no comments were received.

Construction on the container examination building, truck gate and roads could get underway later this year, said Farguson.

Infilling project approved in 2012

The infilling project, called the Fairview Cove Sequestration Facility, was approved by the federal government and began in 2012.

In total, as of the end of November 2020, about 6.3 hectares have been infilled, or an area about one-third the size of Citadel Hill.

The material used to fill in the water is largely pyritic slate that has been removed from construction sites on the peninsula.

"You can't just leave that lying around on the surface, because when it gets interacting with fresh water and oxygen — in other words, if it rains on top of this stuff — you get acidic runoff and that acidic runoff can affect freshwater streams," Farguson said.

Infilling has been taking place since 2012. In July 2018, a man died when the dumptruck he was operating rolled into the water at the site. The construction company he worked for was fined $60,000 for failing to provide proper guidance and equipment.
Infilling has been taking place since 2012. In July 2018, a man died when the dumptruck he was operating rolled into the water at the site. The construction company he worked for was fined $60,000 for failing to provide proper guidance and equipment.

The pyritic slate is buried in the seawater near the Fairview Cove terminal and then capped with clean fill.

"That way, you take oxygen out of the mix and then it's no longer an aerobic environment. And for us, it's a great building material for that type of thing," Farguson said.

More change is expected at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in the coming years. In 2019, the federal government announced funding to link the north-end terminal with the container terminal by Point Pleasant Park in Halifax's south end, as part of the Windsor Street Exchange Redevelopment Project.

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