Kingston Council to review capital budget amendment to cover Belle Park damages

Tuesday night’s Council meeting includes a staff report that could see the City spend up to $1.5 million to repair environmental control system damages at Belle Park. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

On Tuesday, Sep. 5, 2023, Kingston City Councillors will be asked to approve a capital budget amendment to cover unscheduled repairs to the City’s environmental control systems at the Belle Park Landfill. According to a staff report circulating ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, between August 4 to 7, 2023, Belle Park’s groundwater pump systems and overhead electrical infrastructure were vandalized, while several “copper-containing components” were stolen from the site. 

The staff report notes, “additional acts of vandalism and theft have continued at the site over the last several weeks. As a result, power to these systems has been shut down until repairs are completed.” While the Belle Park Landfill is closed to the public, repairs to the damaged infrastructure were needed in order to prevent any “environmental impacts” to the nearby Cataraqui River. 

“The damage to the system is extensive and, to date, has included the downing of several hydro poles, pumps removed from wells, stolen cabling and transformers, and destruction of pump control systems,” the report adds, noting that City staff are working with professionals to consider a range of options for system repairs. However, as the report notes, the current capital budget for Belle Park is not sufficient to cover the total costs of the repairs.

To pay for the extensive repairs, staff are recommending councillors approve a motion to add $1,500,000 to the Business, Real Estate and Environment Department’s capital budget, with the money coming from the Environment Reserve Fund. In addition to repairing the damaged infrastructure, the funds would also allow staff to make changes to the environmental control systems, which should deter acts of vandalism in the future. 

As for which equipment was vandalized, the staff report notes the following damages: 

  • Cutting down of several hydro poles
  • Cutting locks on pump control cabinets
  • Damage to pump control cabinets and equipment
  • Theft of submersible pumps
  • Cutting and theft of electric cable
  • Theft of numerous copper-containing components from pump control equipment
  • Theft of pole-mounted transformers
  • Theft of overhead primary transmission electric cable

According to staff, the pumping system is used to “control the flow of leachate-contaminated groundwater from the former landfill site to the adjacent Cataraqui River.” Pumping stations are placed along both the south and north shores of Belle Park, “adjacent to the western stream that separates the former landfill area from Montreal Street,” the report states.

The landfill at Belle Park has been closed since 1974, with staff describing the amount of leachate as “relatively weak,” however, the water may still contain elements of “un-ionized ammonia,” which could harm aquatic life in the area. “The continued operation of the system is required to prevent environmental damage. Environmental operations and monitoring at Belle Park are done in accordance with a management plan developed and updated by the City and the engineer of record in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP),” adds the report.

While staff do not provide any details or speculation as to who may be responsible for the damage, the report indicates Kingston Police have been notified of the vandalism, along with the City’s insurer. Kingstonist inquired with Kingston Police regarding their involvement in the incidents, but although there was indication they were looking into it, Kingston Police did not respond by time of publication.

As for the overall costs associated with the act of vandalism, the report notes Malroz Engineering Ltd. (Malroz)—the engineers of record for the closed landfill— estimates repairs should cost no more than $1.5 million. While staff are asking councillors to transfer the $1.5 million to the Business, Real Estate and Environment Department’s capital budget, the report does not provide a breakdown of specific repair costs.

On top of the $1.5 million in system repairs, City staff are currently spending approximately $10,000 per week on temporary measures that have been set up to prevent further acts of vandalism at Belle Park. According to the report, the measures included the cleaning up of damaged electrical poles, transformers, and other equipment by Utilities Kingston, as well as additional on-site security. The costs for these temporary measures are currently being funded through the 2023 departmental operating budgets, however, the report notes these budgets are likely to be exceeded “given the duration of the temporary measures.”

The staff report will be presented to Council for approval during its meeting on Tuesday, Sep. 5, 2023. If councillors approve the recommendations, Malroz will carry out the repairs on the City’s behalf, with temporary measures and monitoring expected to be required through the end of 2023. Tuesday’s Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Kingston City Hall. Meetings are open to the public and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

One thought on “Kingston Council to review capital budget amendment to cover Belle Park damages

  • Prosecute the criminals. Separate the mentally ill from the sane. Provide mental health care and space to those that need it. Make free drugs available to those that ‘obey’ the rules of whatever institution they need. Carrott and stick. Provide housing in [in this case the Hub area]. Belle Park is gov’t property. Create housing there. Firm but fair.

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