Going after individuals for cleanups of historic contamination continues to pay off for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
The MOE Director issued a section 18 Order to five companies and three individuals to cleanup outstanding environmental issues at an old paper mill in Thunder Bay. The old Cascades paper mill has extensive contamination, and has been the subject of years of environmental orders and appeals. The provincial Ministry of Finance also seems to have put up millions in public money in two failed attempts to restart the mill.
The mill had had many owners and operators since 1918; the orderees were the last four companies who owned the site (one insolvent and one dissolved); the parent company of one owner, and the presidents and COO of the last two owners. The six remaining orderees appealed to the Tribunal. Following lengthy mediation, the Environmental Review Tribunal conditionally approved terms of settlement and amended the Order.
Under the settlement, the current mill owner, Superior Fine Papers Inc., agreed to undertake additional remediation, demolish the mill, and decommission the wastewater lagoon and waste disposal site. It will get some of the money by selling all its equipment. Its lender agreed to put up $2,324,653.98 in financial assurance for the cleanup, likely because the province gave up $2 million in security claims over the mill and related assets. MOE also allowed the lagoon to be decommissioned by dumping its contents in the old landfill, before applying final cover.
The individuals were released from the Order. It is not known whether they had to contribute financially to the settlement, nor how much has been paid by the previous owner, Cascades, under the previous order against it.
The bottom line is that the province now has $2.3 m in financial assurance, mostly paid for by giving up its claim to recover the provincial money used by a different ministry to prop up the failing mill. Hopefully, this FA will be enough to empty the leaking lagoon, close the old landfill, and tear down the mill, and we won’t read any more cases about this long-running site. I wonder if, over its lifetime, the mill put enough into the community to make up for the soil and water contamination that it caused, and the forests that it consumed?