July 26, 2021

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Geosyntec Employees Authored Challenges Faced in Toronto's Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure Project for Canadian Geotechnique

Charbel Abi-Nahed, Hannah Chessell, Ali Nasseri-Moghaddam, Ph.D., P.Eng., David Drago (Ontario), and Jim Hansen, P.E. (Illinois) coauthored an article entitled "Challenges Faced in Toronto's Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure Project" for publication in the Summer 2021 issue of Canadian Geotechnique.

Charbel Abi-Nahed is a is a Staff Professional based in Ontario with experience providing support for geotechnical engineering tasks, secant pile wall installation, borehole drilling, field supervision, laboratory testing, and reporting of both soil and rock specimens.

Hannah Chessell is a Hydrogeologist based in Ontario with experience in hydrogeology, enhanced in situ bioremediation (ESIB) injections, lithology profiling, drilling oversight, preparation of borehole logs, groundwater sample collection, soil sample collection, data management, soil gas probe installation and sampling, and health and safety plans development.

Ali Nasseri-Moghaddam is a Principal Geotechnical Engineer based in Ontario with more than 25 years of professional experience in the areas of geotechnical, dam, and structural engineering. His expertise includes dam engineering, earthquake engineering, risk management for underground structures, slope stability assessment, geotechnical design of tunneling works, and application of geophysics in geotechnical engineering.

David Drago is a Staff Scientist based in Ontario with experience conducting groundwater, soil, and soil vapor sampling, asbestos surveys, Phase I site investigations, phase contrast microscopy (PCM) air sampling, and AutoCAD engineering drawings.

Jim Hansen is a Project Engineer based in Illinois with 11 years of experience in geotechnical engineering, seismic hazards and slope stability analysis, foundation design, and retaining walls, pertaining to the investigation, analysis, and design of infrastructure and development projects.

Canadian Geotechnique is a member magazine with news about the Canadian Geotechnical Society that features articles of general interest to the geotechnical community.

The Canadian Geotechnical Society is an organization for geotechnical engineering and related geoscience in Canada. The Canadian Geotechnical Society is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the creation of opportunities to exchange information among individuals from academia (both faculty and students), consulting, government, industry, contractors, and various providers of geotechnical-related products and services.


The City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and the Government of Canada are undertaking a $1.25 B design and redevelopment project of the Port Lands which is the largest urban redevelopment project currently underway in North America. The Port Lands are a 4.05-km2 (1,000-acre) area on the shore of Lake Ontario, immediately east of downtown Toronto. The development area was created through decades of infilling of wetlands and has historically been used for heavy industry.

Much of the area is within the floodplain of the southward owing Don River. In 1892, the mouth of the river was channelized and directed, by means of an unnatural 90-degree bend, into the Toronto inner harbor. Over the years, flooding from the river has increased in severity and the decision was made to "naturalize" the mouth of the river to help mitigate the flood hazard. Naturalization includes construction of a new river valley (channel) to more directly connect the lower reaches of Don River to Lake Ontario. Because the new river valley will convey water through the infilled area, strict environmental requirements govern the design and construction of this valley and the surrounding area. Further, organic and peat layers, loose/soft soils and industrial debris make the project geotechnically challenging.

As part of the flood protection, a groundwater cut-off wall was designed and constructed to facilitate excavation and construction of the naturalized river valley. Besides providing structural support in some areas, the wall acts as a barrier to limit the movement of potential contamination from the area into the river valley. The cut-off consists of a secant pile wall—a series of interlocked steel reinforced and nonreinforced concrete piles keyed in into the underlying shale bedrock. This article describes some of the challenges faced during the construction of the cut-off wall.

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