The Kitsilano Coast Guard base closed by the federal government as a cost-cutting measure is sitting on a suspected contamination site, and critics say the cleanup could put a huge dent in Ottawa’s savings.

CTV News has learned the base is listed on the Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory, and the government has already spent more than $72,000 on initial testing to confirm whether there’s a risk to people or the environment.

Because the plot is owned by B.C. and only leased by Ottawa, the province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said it will expect remediation if a contamination is confirmed.

Coast Guard union representative Dave Clark said the base also used to be a Department of National Defence post, a fact that could suggest an even costlier cleanup.

“I would highly guess that we’re looking at over $1 million to actually clean up the site,” Clark said. “This used to be a military base. They’re usually not the cleanest ones, and we’re going back to World War II. I’m scared to see what they would actually find under there.”

The federal government estimates it will save $700,000 a year by shutting down the base. To offset the loss of resources, Ottawa has promised to install a rescue boat station in Vancouver from May to September manned by two summer students and one rescue professional.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer search and rescue station in Indian Arm is also being moved to the Second Narrows Bridge, and a new hovercraft is being placed at the Sea Island base in Richmond, roughly 35 minutes away.

The union says each of those moves also diminishes the costs being saved.

“$100,000 to the volunteers, we price out the life station over at Stanley Park at about $250,000,” Clark said. “The hovercraft runs at about $800 an hour where the cutter that used to be [at Kitsilano] was running at $100.”

The government also announced last week that it was spending $6.6 million to replace an existing Coast Guard facility in Burin, Nfld.

Coast Guard officials wouldn’t comment on how much a Vancouver cleanup might cost, but said that figure would factor into negotiations as they prepare to transfer the land back to B.C.

Cleanup aside, critics like Clark fear the real cost will be measured in lives lost in the water.

“They’re spending money in Atlantic Canada on opening bases, redoing bases. We have the population, we deserve this. We’ve had this base for 70 years,” Clark said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee