Demolition of west coast elevator gets underway

A contaminated grain terminal that once played an important role in the growth of the Canadian grain industry will soon disappear from the Vancouver waterfront.

Pacific Elevator 3, a grain storage facility consisting of 42 concrete grain silos and other structures, will be removed from the south shore of Vancouver Harbour by early next year, says Regina-based grain handling company Viterra, which owns the facility.

Demolition of the elevator began last month and is scheduled for completion next May.

The mothballed facility is part of Viterra’s Pacific Port Terminal but has not been used since 2010.

“At over 100 years old, the (PAC 3) facility has reached the end of its useful life span, being unused now for almost nine years and completely unoccupied for the last two years,” Viterra said on www.viterra.com/web/canada/pac3.

“As an aged and unoccupied structure, it has experienced decay and erosion and currently poses a safety risk with the potential to negatively impact neighbouring infrastructure, the community and Viterra employees.”

PAC 3 was built in 1918 but sat dormant until 1923 when the Vancouver Harbour Commission acquired control.

Ownership of the facility changed to Federal Grain in 1967.

Since the late 1990s, the facility has seen limited use due to degradation of the grain bins.

Viterra evaluated the facility for potential upgrades, but it was deemed unsuitable for retrofitting due to structural integrity concerns.

In 2010, the facility was permanently closed and all conveyance equipment was removed.

As part of the permitting process for the tear-down, Viterra developed a plan that included a hazardous materials (Hazmat) assessment report, which said light ballasts and machinery inside the building contain PCBs and mercury.

Asbestos is also present in drywall mud, window putty, mastic patches and caulking.

“Risk management related to hazardous materials and dust have been further refined under a hazardous materials abatement plan and air emissions management plan,” Viterra’s website states.

Officials with the company declined to be interviewed but the company has stated that the demolition project poses no danger to the public.

“There are no concerns with the use of community gardens, use of public areas (pools, playgrounds, etc.) or having windows open at home or work in areas near the deconstruction,” the company said.

“Viterra’s PAC1 and PAC2 structures, which are not part of the deconstruction, are located immediately adjacent to the east of the work area and will remain fully operational during the project, with normal Viterra employee activities uninterrupted onsite during the deconstruction period.”

Earlier this month, anonymous bulletins were posted on buildings and utility poles in the vicinity of PAC3, warning residents to beware of possible exposure to hazardous materials.

Viterra said it is not responsible for the bulletins, which — according to the company — contain a significant amount of misinformation and have caused unnecessary concern in the neighbourhood.

The PAC3 facility is also contaminated with the feces and carcasses of rodents and birds.

The demolition is part of a major upgrade to Viterra’s Pacific Port Terminal.

Facility upgrades to date have included the installation of a new low emission ship loader, a new air emission system, new low emission truck loaders, upgrades to automation systems and the removal of the obsolete ship loading and conveyance systems, the company said.

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