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ONTARIO: Safety inspection finds bird poop up to two feet deep in grain building

Birds have taken over one of the towers on the Collingwood grain terminal building, and it's gross.

COLLINGWOOD — When the accumulation of bird poop in a building has to be measured in feet, not inches, you know there’s going to be more than one safety issue.

Indeed, an engineer has identified multiple safety issues in the Collingwood grain terminals building, including in the marine tower where groups of birds have made a home over the years. The guano (bird poop) was two feet thick in some spots, preventing access to the tower entirely.

The estimate to fix up (and clean up) the terminals to continue their use as a decommissioned industrial site is about $10 million, and that’s if not much more time passes before repairs are made.

Will Teron, an engineer with Tacoma Engineers out of Guelph, has been studying the Collingwood terminals for the past weeks in an effort to report on the structural integrity and safety of the building. He was at council with his findings on June 25.

While Teron said the building was structurally sound, he identified many areas with “poor” conditions and suggested remediation occur as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration.

Teron clarified he did not include a pile investigation in his assessment and suggested the town should have one done in the long-term to confirm the condition of the 4,000 wood piles upon which the foundation is set. He did indicate he could not find evidence of significant settling of the building’s foundation.

Teron said in addition to the guano in the marine tower, there are other hazardous materials in the building including asbestos, lead, mercury, silica, PCBs and mold. He recommended cleaning those up in the short-term to make the building safe for users.

Teron said the existing roof fall arrest system is non-existent, and suggested a new one be installed soon for the safety of the workers who will be installing or working on the communications towers.

The roof needs to be replaced. The current roof is chipping away and has deteriorated in the middle to allow pooling of water. The roof material also contains asbestos.

Teron is recommending complete concrete restoration and reinforcement. He said he noted cracking and spalling (flaking, chipping) of the concrete in several places and said this type of condition deteriorates exponentially. Part of the restoration should include new coatings and sealants, according to Teron’s report.

All the windows and doors need replacing. Teron recommended a window assessment in the near future to assess what reinforcement repairs are needed in addition to the replacement.

The stairs and platforms in the building are nearly all unsafe. The only stairway up is a tight, narrow spiral staircase going straight up for 100 feet. The stairwell is next to a functioning elevator.

Teron estimates $8 million to $9.7 million in costs if the town were to complete full remediation and repair of the building over the next five years. That’s including $2 million for environmental clean up, $3.5 million for the roof repair, $3 million for concrete restoration, $500,000 for windows and doors, $300,000 for interior systems, and $400,000 for waterproofing and drainage.

Teron said if the town were to extend the repairs over a longer period, the costs would be higher due to deterioration.

Teron said there is an option for the town to abandon the building, however the town would still have to do work to make the building safe for workers while the contracts (for things like the communications towers) on the building continue. The fourth option he presented council was to demolish the building at a cost of approximately $5 million, which would include the environmental clean up. This demolition would simply take the building down to grade, it does not include removing the 4,000 wood piles partially underwater.

Teron recommended the first option of remediation and repairs over the next five years, but said he recognized the town’s finances may require a longer-term repair schedule.

Council voted to receive the report and include it in the 2019 budget discussions.

This report is the result of a Strategic Initiatives Meeting on Jan. 23, 2017. Director of Public Works and Engineering, Brian MacDonald provided an update to the committee which included a historical review of the building and explained that any next steps would require a structural engineering study.

Collingwood’s grain terminals were built in 1929. There were only nine months from the beginning of construction to September 1929 when the first grain shipments were received. According to Teron’s report, there was a large workforce employed by Carter-Halls-Aldinger of Winnipeg working round the clock to get the concrete silos constructed in three months.

The building was constructed with a timber pile foundation and a mass concrete slab. There are 4,000 wood piles underneath the 97-by-316-foot building. The 52 concrete silos each stand at 100 feet. They are arranged in four rows of 13. Teron said the Bin Floor where the two conveyor belts were housed showed impressive mechanics in its ability to take or put grain into any of the 52 silos and load it onto waiting shipping containers.

There are two towers on the building - the marine tower (west end) and the shipping tower (east end). There is also a rail shed at the far east end currently used by the local sailing club. The marine tower is open on the water side, and has therefore provided a nesting area for several birds.

The town purchased the site in 1997, but the building is unused. The terminals were used for grain service for 64 years, which ended in 1993. Collingwood was involved in the grain trade for 123 years. Over the years there have been some proposals for converting the grain elevators into other usable space including for a mushroom farm.