THUNDER BAY -- Eight years after the provincial government first issued orders for environmental work at the site of a Thunder Bay paper mill, the tasks the current owners were given still have not been completed.
The Ministry of the Environment says it's concerned, and is considering its options for rectifying the situation.
To complicate matters, the property is now at the centre of court cases involving the owners and a company they hired to help with the mitigation work.
Most recently owned by Superior Fine Papers, over the decades the mill near the mouth of the Current River was operated by several companies including Abitibi, Cascades and Thunder Bay Fine Papers.
By 2015, the mill had been demolished but the cleanup remains unfinished today.
In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the MOE issued several orders related to the repair and decommissioning of mill lagoons, closure of a waste disposal site and industrial sewage work.
The owners appealed those orders to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) in 2011, but the mill was sold the next year. The new operator—Superior Fine Papers—reached a settlement agreement with the ministry outlining the environmental work to be done by the end of 2014.
According to an MOE spokesperson contacted by tbnewswatch.com, the major components of the work involved three aspects: decommissioning of industrial sewage works and lagoons, the capping and closure of an industrial waste disposal site, and the removal of all chemicals from the property.
The decommissioning of the lagoons was completed, but the spokesperson said the owners have not separated and removed demolition waste and debris from the site, and have not properly closed and capped the landfill.
"The ministry is concerned that several requirements are outstanding and that the owner has not made any progress at the site in the past year," he said.
The MOE is considering its regulatory options including issuance of further orders, involvement of the ERT and environmental penalties.
In the meantime, two legal actions related to the cleanup orders are before the courts but the ministry is not a party to them.
In one instance, a company hired by Superior to remove sludge and dewater the lagoons that drained into the harbour has filed an application against the property owners under the Construction Lien Act.
In the other, the owners are claiming for breach of contract, alleging the work was not completed. According to a court document, "the alleged non-performance of the work led to Superior not paying" the contractor.