Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I live in an AOC*

Sunday morning I decided to walk beyond the Wilson St. headland towards the old Sask Pool 6 site so that I could let Musti and Tassu off leash. It's not officially an off-leash area and you've got to keep your eyes peeled for the dog-catcher driving about in his van, but dog walkers have been known to go there to let their dogs have a bit of a run (if you're job is TBay dog catcher, you did NOT read this on my blog). Stroll about the eerie wasteland that this site is, and wonder.

The city has put up some new chain link fencing to deter people like me from doing just that. However, there is a clear path skirting around the end post. Maneuvering around it, I stopped by the marsh where red-winged blackbirds weave through cattails and a blue heron visits early summer mornings. Musti must've smelled some blue heron-do because she was determined to go down to the ice-covered marsh.

After chatting to another Sunday a.m. dog walker and having the dogs sniff each other carefully, I left him to his paper cup of coffee and I set off towards the old Pool 6 site. You can't tell from the snow cover, but I believe this area is 'brown space', i.e. contaminated, toxic soil. Small towns and cities across Canada are rife with brown spaces left behind by industry long gone packing--except they left their mess behind. Sitting and seeping. The Bay & Algoma corner lot is brown space, too. Owned by Petro Can, which refuses to fork out the $$ to clean up the contaminated soil from their former gas station. So it sits vacant, a central sore spot.

The old loading dock of the Sask Pool 6 elevator almost looks pretty. An antique elegant ghost ship standing alone, as if the Edmund Fitzgerald had risen from the lake bed and heaved itself out of the water to bear witness to the lakers that have gone down in so many storms. A certain symmetry to the deep brown wood. A geometric equation beyond logic that's pleasing to the eye. An exposed skeleton. Worn and weathered. A relic, but there. Refusing to crumple.

Passing underneath its massive heft you have a sense of the work that once went on above. You can almost hear the heavy clang of the workday in the silence. The sound of machinery. Men calling out. Wheels squealing. Its legacy endures. Indeed, the pleasing dark brown wood is actually the reason why it's still standing. Creosote soaked. A brownish-black oily weatherguard for wood made from coke, a byproduct of coal. Used for railway ties, hydro and telephone poles, bridges, marine pilings, fences, lumber for outdoor use. I've even seen my neighbours scavenge old railway ties to make raised garden beds, as well as use them instead of stone walls along the front sidewalk.

The problem with creosote is that it has a tendency to exude from surfaces and release fumes. Enters through touch and breath. It's a mutant. A carcinogen. Carrot, anyone? Hmmm, the carrots seem to have a hint of a smoky flavour..... No wonder crude creosote is aka 'dead oil'.

Watch below to see the Sask Wheat Pool 6 coming down in 2000.

Here's the after shot. What's left of Pool 6, over your left shoulder facing south. An immense mausoleum of giant concrete blocks, heaped up willy-nilly at the lakeshore. Our own stonehenge facing south. A blue-collar pyramid. A whole heap of money needed to clean up this prime lake front property. This tumble-down concrete graveyard is only the tip of the sleeping monster. No wonder the condo and hotel developers that want to come to town want the cleaned parkland in front of the train station for their make-money = bring tourists project. Echoes of a neoliberal threat ring out from these stones: We won't set up in your town unless you give us what we want and we are not cleaning up that land or lakeshore.

Where to dump creosote lumber these days? No doubt, special demolition crews needed to take down the old loading dock. We have a history with creosote in this town. Lumber and creosote go together, but creosote and water don't mix. A huge blob, the size of 2 football fields once lurked like a giant jellyfish just round the corner, on the bottom of the lake, by Northern Wood Preservers (CN Rail and Abitibi owned/mucked up that land/water, too). The blob eventually got sucked into a rockfill retaining pond and was supposedly covered up with some nice, clean fill. Like Love Canal. Pretty on top. Let's let Mother Earth eat toxins for eternity! She can do it, that old gal. I wonder if I should walk further and look for that covered up blob?

I remember reading during the 'discovery' of the blob that after a diver dove underwater to check how far the blob had spread, his diving suit stretched like mozzarella cheese when he hung it up to dry. I wonder if any earth worms are looking cheesy these days....

*AOC Area of Concern 28 k along Thunder Bay harbour is an area of concern.

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