Shubie Park

In the shadow of Montague Gold Mines – how historic pollution is haunting big plans for developing Port Wallace

This is a story, an earlier version of which was published in the Halifax Examiner in March 2020, about the toxic legacy from historic gold mines in Nova Scotia, which its citizens will be paying many millions of dollars to try to clean up, and how the contamination at just one of these sites – Montague Mines in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) – is still affecting us today.

This, the second in a series of three articles about historic gold mining that is coming back to haunt Nova Scotia, looks at how contamination from an old gold mining site is affecting plans for a large new subdivision planned in HRM. Part 1. can be read here.

Port Wallace 2016 presentation development map & schedule

For a few years there, things were chugging along well for Clayton Developments’ ambitious plans for a large new residential subdivision on hundreds of acres of woods and wetlands in Port Wallace.

At first glance it looks like an ideal place to put in a new subdivision. At least I imagine it does through a developer’s eyes.

Port Wallace and environs. Google satellite.

Located between the Waverley Road and the Forest Hills Extension, Port Wallace is not far from Burnside and Dartmouth Crossing, and there is good highway access to the Halifax airport. And the development site appears to be a lovely natural setting through which Barry’s Run flows, close to Lake Charles and Shubie Park.

Even if a few residents in adjacent communities had expressed concerns about several possible negative effects of the new subdivision, it looked as if nothing would get in the way of Clayton’s master plan for Port Wallace.

And then something did. But I’ll get to that.

First some background.

Potential for development … and for problems

HRM originally identified Port Wallace as a potential development area in its 2006 Regional Plan. Since then, it has undertaken a barrage of studies to assess its potential for development, and also potential problems.

A study by AECOM in 2013 looked at the possible effects that a subdivision in Port Wallace would have on the Shubenacadie Lakes sub-watershed.

At the heart of that sub-watershed is Lake Charles, which is close to the Port Wallace lands slated for residential development. The AECOM report noted that Lake Charles is particularly important in the lakes system, being the headwater lake that discharges both north and south:

Historical reports suggest that approximately 60% of its discharge flows north to William and on to Lakes Thomas, Fletcher and Grand. The remaining 40% of the discharge from Lake Charles flows south to Lakes Micmac and Banook and ultimately to Dartmouth Cove in Halifax Harbour.

Water flows from Lake Charles south to Lakes Micmac and Banook and then to Dartmouth Cove. Photo: Joan Baxter

AECOM also found that “the primary human activity impacting water quality is changes to land use resulting from development within the subwatershed.” (This should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the deterioration of water quality in Dartmouth lakes as subdivisions have mushroomed around them and homes have crowded their shores over the past half century.) Continue reading Port Wallace Gamble: The real estate boom meets Nova Scotia’s toxic mine legacy (Part 2)

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