Nova Scotia officials call for more comprehensive environmental assessment of site of idled Bowater Mersey Paper mill acquired by province in December, including soil, groundwater testing; further testing unnecessary as new operations will stay industrial

LOS ANGELES , December 30, 2012 () –

Local government officials are calling for Nova Scotia to do more comprehensive environmental testing on the Bowater Mersey Paper Co. Ltd. mill site the province acquired in December, citing risk of contaminants from the soil and groundwater, The Chronicle Herald reported Dec. 30.

The province announced Dec. 10 that it agreed to acquire all Bowater Mersey shares for C$1 from Resolute Forest Products Inc. and to take over the pension liability worth $100 million in addition to debts owed the parent company totaling $18 million.

The site, located in Brooklyn, Nova, Scotia, had manufactured paper for 84 years; but the mill is now idle, reported The Chronicle Herald.

A Phase I environmental assessment was conducted in June by AMEC Earth and Infrastructure on the site, but did not include ground testing. Heavy metals or asbestos could be contaminating the site’s former landfills and facilities while the soil could contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and petroleum, according to the AMEC report, which also recommended testing of soil and groundwater.

However, because the site will become a bioenergy and forestry innovation center, a Phase II environmental assessment and subsequent cleanup was not necessary because the new operations will be industrial, The Chronicle Herald reported.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jaimie Baillie noted that the actual costs of acquiring the site are unknown and called for more testing of toxic chemicals.

Nova Scotia Lands Inc. estimated from one site visit that the cost of cleaning up the site would be $8.75 million.

The site includes 220,000 hectares of forestland, which the province bought for $118 million. The value of the land is estimated at $117.7 million, reported The Chronicle Herald.

Andrew Younger, a member of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly and a Liberal environmental critic, noted that the province missed the opportunity to conduct a proper assessment that could have included cost estimates.

He added, however, that “there aren’t a lot” of neighbors near the site, but that an analysis would have identified contaminants leaching from the ground over time to waterways and other properties, The Chronicle Herald reported.

The primary source of this article is The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Dec. 30, 2012.

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