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Powell River resident raises mill contamination issues

Correspondence discussed by committee of the whole also questions power generation from dam sites
COUNCILLORS QUESTIONED: Concerned resident John Chan appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to express concerns about the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill, regarding contamination at the site and power generation by Brookfield Renewable Power and Transition.

City of Powell River’s new city council will receive an update on transpirations at the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill site.

At the October 4 committee of the whole meeting, councillors received correspondence from John Chan, who had questions about the mill and power generated by Powell River Energy Inc. at its dam sites.

“What role and actions will the city take to rescind section 21 and develop appropriate bylaws to ensure Paper Excellence will fulfill its legal obligation to properly remediate all its contaminated sites at the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill site?” asked Chan in his correspondence. “What roles and actions will the city take to ensure the hydro power generation at Powell River by Brookfield Renewable [Power and Transition] and its subsidiary Powell River Energy Inc. will provide financial benefit and compensation to the citizens of Powell River and surrounding region, who are absorbing all of the ecological, environmental and financial losses resulting from this hydro operation?”

Chan stated that in light of Tla’amin Nation’s announcement to pursue its interest in developing a proposed hydrogen extraction project, it is imperative that the city takes an active leadership role to support and foster a viable economy with Tla’amin and future economic development at this mill site.

The committee voted to receive Chan’s correspondence.

Mayor Dave Formosa said that at the recently concluded Union of British Columbia Municipalities meeting, city representatives met with minister of environment and climate change strategy George Heyman.

“We suggested we weren’t happy that an application went forward to see the power leaving our community,” said Formosa. “It concerns us, because as we know, that power was licensed to be provided to that site, to provide ongoing jobs and tax base for this community.

“The minister promised that any documentation in the way of water licensing, environmental reporting, ongoing issues, et cetera, we would be copied on all such documentation.”

Formosa said city representatives met with Brookfield representatives and the company assured the local delegation that its first priority is to provide power to the mill site. Formosa said he believes that to be true.

As far as contamination, Formosa said he did not know of any legislation that was going to force anybody to clean up the site.

“Industrial sites can actually be financed, sold and operated for industrial purposes,” said Formosa. “From my knowledge, if you want to create housing, a resort or something that is not of an industrial basis, then one would have to clean it up. I believe while it stays industrial, that’s basically what is going to happen.

“What might be a good idea is for folks to write to Paper Excellence and ask what their thoughts are about site cleanup before sale. What Paper Excellence is stipulating is whoever buys it takes on that responsibility and absolves Paper Excellence.”

Chan, who was in the gallery at council chambers, took to the podium and said people have been carrying the burden of the corporate tax write-off of Paper Excellence for many years. He said the tax revitalization bylaw provided the understanding that the paper company would provide jobs here, and now the mill was curtailed.

He said there are a number of contaminants on the grounds at the mill site. He added that with the potential sale of the mill lands, there is the potential to replace a dirty industry with another dirty industry.

Regarding hydrogen generation, Chan said one mistake could level the entire city. He suggested more sustainable energy, such as solar or wind.

“There’s no discussion on that,” added Chan.

There was a recommendation to send Chan’s information, and a basic overview of the issue to date, to the new city council for discussion early in its mandate. The committee gave unanimous consent to do so.


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