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Eyebrows raised over environmental report on old hospital

‘Due to travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, a site inspection was not possible’ - Robb Hudson, Trafalgar Environmental Consultants

Mayor Matthew Shoemaker and Ward 2 Coun. Luke Dufour are expressing concern about a $2,900 environmental report prepared by a Newmarket, Ont. consultant about the state of the old hospital buildings.

The report, an environmental assessment done last year by Robb Hudson of Trafalgar Environmental Consultants, concluded no evidence of staining, significant mould or unusual odours were found at 941 and 995 Queen St. E.

Presence of hazardous materials was unlikely, Hudson reported.

Hudson also found no evidence of equipment capable of generating significant electromagnetic fields, making no mention of an abandoned magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner recently discovered by an urban explorer at the former General Hospital site.

The report was part of a 200-page package submitted to the city by developer Italo Ferrari, hours before this month's city council meeting.

Ferrari also submitted an out-of-date engineering report in the same package.

Both the mayor and Coun. Dufour want Hudson's environmental assessment to be re-done.

At the Dec. 12 council meeting, Dufour pointed out that, in a section on 'limitations,' Hudson admitted that "due to travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, a site inspection was not possible."

"So we have an environmental report here written by an engineer that literally had never even seen the property?" Dufour asked Ferrari.

Ferrari responded that Dufour didn't understand the process.

"They've done an inspection. They went back to records for the property, what it was used for, for many years," Ferrari told him.

Dufour was particularly dubious of claims that the buildings have no odour issues.

The councillor said neighbours of the old hospital site are constantly complaining to him about smells.

"I don't know how they can smell a property from a building 2,000 feet away," Ferrari countered. "I don't know how they can do that."

Hudson's assessment drew on a previous environmental assessment done by Trafalgar Environmental Consultants at 955 Queen St. E., an adjacent property known as the Doctor's Building, which is still in use.

A SooToday review of the latest assessment found some other interesting anomalies: 

  • Hudson's requests for information from the provincial government were submitted just two days before his final report was prepared. The report was submitted before any response was received
  • he asked for information about 941 and 995 Church St. (see copies above). The old hospital buildings are not on Church Street
  • a field on the freedom-of-information application form says names of previous property owners and tenants are mandatory for requests about investigations or prosecutions. That field was left blank on Hudson's application

"We should be certain that the information is both about the right property and contains all the information required to be able to extract those records from provincial ministries," Mayor Shoemaker told SooToday in an interview.

SooToday reached out to Hudson to get his side of the story.

He said the report was prepared for exclusive use of the developer, Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc., and he was unable to discuss it without permission from his client.

Two days later, Hudson advised he had not received no consent from his client.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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