Brownfield Remediation in Kingston and Hamilton, Ontario: A Virtuous Cycle of Civil Society Involvement

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Roberts, Allison
Environmental , Brownfields , Civil Society
As the pressures of urban development progressively threaten the preservation of greenfields, it is increasingly understood that sustainable development and smart growth strategies must include the remediation and redevelopment of brownfields. As the support for brownfield redevelopment strengthens, and frameworks for brownfield planning become more prominent at municipal levels, it is important that municipalities not only ensure the proper remediation of old brownfield sites, but also identify a place for civil society within brownfield plans. The legal, financial, social, environmental, and health complexities of redevelopment, as well as the impact of brownfield sites on the community, make civil society involvement an essential component of a successful brownfield strategy. This case-based thesis research examines the role of civil society in brownfield remediation and redevelopment through themes of social capital, social learning and risk perceptions. The two cases studies are former landfill sites; the Rennie Street landfill in Hamilton, Ontario and the Belle Park landfill in Kingston, Ontario. Both cases involved civil society using legal action as a reactive approach to contamination leaching from the respective sites into nearby water bodies. The research was conducted through participant observation, interviews with key stakeholders in the Belle Park and Rennie Street landfill cases, and a comprehensive review of written information. The literature review informed the development of a conceptual framework, which was used to guide the research and the evaluation of results. The thesis reveals examples of civil society bringing awareness to brownfield issues through a reactive strategy, followed by proactive community involvement in brownfield programs. In both cases, civil society’s perceptions of the associated risks informed the reaction to the suspected contamination. The results of the study suggest that the establishment of networks and trust, as well as the reflective process that occurred throughout the legal action contributed to civil society’s ability to influence decision making. It is anticipated that the Rennie Street and Belle Park case studies will highlight for brownfield stakeholders the significance of engaging civil society in municipal brownfield planning.
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