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Contaminated soil will be cleaned up around Cold War-era bunker in Nanaimo

Federal government puts out tender for remediation project expected to cost at least $1 million
A reference drawing included in the bid package for remediation work at a decommissioned bunker at Nanaimo Military Camp. (SNC Lavalin/Government of Canada image)

Clean-up work is planned around a Nanaimo landmark from the Cold War.

The fallout shelter, known as the Nanaimo Bunker or by its nickname Diefenbunker, located on Nanaimo Military Camp acreage on Nanaimo Lakes Road near the Nanaimo Parkway, will be the site of excavation work to clear contaminated soil from around the structure.

Public Works and Government Services Canada put out a notice March 3 to try to attract potential contractors for the job of bunker remediation excavation.

“The project is currently still in the tender stage,” said Sarah Lawley-Wakelin, Public Services and Procurement Canada Pacific region manager, in an e-mail. “The project is planned to begin shortly after the contract has been awarded to the successful contractor, which is estimated to occur in spring 2022.”

She said the work at the site is expected to take three to six weeks at an estimated cost of between $1 million and $5 million.

The Department of National Defence said in an e-mail that the work being carried out is soil remediation work around the bunker only and the structure is not being demolished.

“Past activities of the site, for example fuel storage in above-ground tanks, have resulted in some soils being contaminated. The purpose of this remediation work is to remove contaminated soils such that this site meets federal environmental quality guidelines,” said DND spokesperson Andrée-Anne Poulin.

According to project documents, about 7,400 tonnes of contaminated soil need to be transported from the site for disposal and more than 8,700 tonnes will need to be hauled in to replace the soil removed. Contaminated water and vegetation will also need to be dealt with.

“While the former bunker has been declared surplus to military needs in 2012, we are currently completing the necessary due diligence activities in order to support the future divestment of the property,” Poulin said.

She noted the bunker is still DND property and the military has not made any decisions about the divestment of the structure.

READ ALSO: Military camp left impact on Nanaimo

The Nanaimo Bunker, commissioned by former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker – hence the nickname Diefenbunker – in 1959, is an underground 61,000-square-foot, two-storey concrete structure built when tensions were high between the United States and the former Soviet Union. It is one of seven nuclear blast and fallout shelters plus more than 40 ancillary hardened structure built across Canada for government leaders to ensure the continuity of government if nuclear war broke out. It operated from the early 1960s until it was decommissioned in the mid 1990s.

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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