Ground-penetrating radar survey discovers anomalies at Regina General Hospital parkade site

·2 min read
Excavation work is estimated to take about a month at the Regina General Hospital, where ground-penetrating radar identified three areas with anomalies in the visitor parking lot.  (Cory Herperger/CBC - image credit)
Excavation work is estimated to take about a month at the Regina General Hospital, where ground-penetrating radar identified three areas with anomalies in the visitor parking lot. (Cory Herperger/CBC - image credit)

An archeological assessment will be done at the site of a planned Regina General Hospital parkade, after ground-penetrating radar discovered anomalies at the site.

John Ash, the Saskatchewan Health Authority's executive director of acute care in Regina, said the anomalies could be old foundations, building structures or the results of other historical excavation activities — or they could be historical burial sites.

"It is because of the potential for historical burials that we are operating out of an abundance of caution," Ash said on Wednesday.

"Hospitals have been located on this site for more than 125 years but there are gaps in our historical knowledge of the various ways the sites have been used and have changed over time."

The site will undergo an archeological assessment, including on-site excavation, to identify the anomalies detected by ground-penetrating radar during initial technical assessments. They were located in three different areas of the current parking lot.

"We know we need to proceed carefully, thoughtfully and in a methodical manner," Ash said.

WATCH | Ground-penetrating radar survey discovers anomalies at Regina General Hospital parkade site:

Updates will be provided on the excavation efforts, he said. If human remains are found, the health authority, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement would work with partners to determine the appropriate next steps.

In a public notice Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said visitor parking will be reduced in the general hospital's northwest visitor parking lot over the next few weeks, where additional survey and technical assessment work will take place.

Submitted by Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement
Submitted by Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement

Ash said the work is not expected to impact hospital operations, emergency room operations or emergency services access to the hospital.

Leslie "Butch" Amundson, a Saskatoon-based archeologist and technical leader for cultural resources for the engineering services company Stantec, attended Wednesday's news conference in Regina.

He said typically, calls he's had to similar hospital sites have been related to infrastructure discoveries.

He said the ground-penetrating radar searched roughly 1.2 metres deep and simply showed there was disturbed ground. That's all he could definitively say, for now.

"We know they're human-made. The ground-penetrating radar and the [electromagnetic conduction] survey also shows us where the buried pipes and the former footpaths and sidewalks are," he said.

"These ones don't have an explanation of being site infrastructure. That's why they warrant an archeological exploration."

The next step, Amundson said, is to examine what the findings are.

Miguel Morrissette, an assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement, said while it's too early to say for certain what the anomalies are, all possibilities need to be considered, given the history of the site, how much has changed there over the past 125 years and the gaps in historical knowledge.

Morrissette estimated it would take roughly a month to get permits in place for the soil to be removed and the anomalies to be identified.

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