Bathurst has declared a ​local state of emergency for a part of Rough Waters Drive, in order to deal with a growing number of sinkholes in the area.

The state of emergency was required to give the city the right to fix the abandoned water pipe under the road that's causing the sinkholes, said Bathurst Police Chief Eugène Poitras.

"That pipe does not belong to the city," he said. 

It's from the former Smurfit-Stone paper mill in the northern city.

"Right now, we have to destroy that pipe and we have to fill it with concrete so there is no risk to the public or the residents trying to go to their homes," said Poitras.

Jason Kinsman

Jason Kinsman said he wants a large sinkhole that has appeared in his driveway fixed as soon as possible. (CBC)

A contractor started working on the pipe around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, shortly after the state of emergency was called.

Engineers will be strategically digging holes, breaking up pipe, and filling the pipe with concrete at sites yet to be determined, officials said.

There is no indication the road is at risk at this time, they said.

The state of emergency is for seven days, but the work will be done as quickly as possible, officials said.

Meanwhile, residents are urged to avoid the area.

The city can ask for an extension on the state of emergency, if required.

Area residents have been complaining about the growing number of sinkholes cropping up around the former Smurfit-Stone.

The sinkholes are a sad reminder for many people about the former mill’s bankruptcy and abandonment. 

Green Investment Group purchased the property in 2011, but the craters are only getting worse.

Brian Kenny

Bathurst Liberal MLA Brian Kenny has said he and other area politicians want to put pressure on Green Investment Group to fix up the old Smurfit-Stone paper mill site. (CBC)

Jason Kinsman lives near the site and has watched the hole in his driveway continue to grow.

“I feel afraid for our kids, I feel afraid for the safety of my family, the public," he said.

"That's a big hole there that needs to be fixed."

As the sinkhole continues to grow, Kinsman said he’s concerned about what could happen if there was an emergency around his house.

Canada Post will not deliver to the house either.

Kinsman said a subcontractor used to come out and pour fill into smaller holes in past years.

'I do want to apologize. This is certainly not the way that we wanted to do things.' - Gerry Philippe, Green Investment Group

But Kinsman said he’s been calling the subcontractor since April for help with his sinkhole and has not had any luck at getting it filled in.

“They got to get estimates and it's in the works and I don't believe any of it. Until I see someone here and they're actually working on it, I'll believe it then," he said.

When the Green Investment Group bought the old Smurfit-Stone property in 2011, the company planned to sell off the equipment, clean it up and resell it.

Instead, the site was stripped and then it was left barren.

Gerry Philippe, the vice-president of Canadian operations, said the company’s plans fell through.

"I do want to apologize. This is certainly not the way that we wanted to do things," he said.

"Normally we have other sites and we work much more diligently. However, we do need to work with local authorities to do that, and we hope all this comes to fruition in the very near future."

The corrugated paper mill shut down suddenly in August 2005 and put 270 people out of work.

Bathurst Liberal MLA Brian Kenny says he wants the provincial and federal governments to put pressure on Green Investment Group to fix up the site.

“They definitely owe something to Bathurst. When they came to see us when they wanted to buy the property, they had a PowerPoint [presentation] of what they were going to do, they had an environmental impact analysis to make sure that when they left the property it would be cleaned up," Kenny said.

"And what they did is they basically took the money and ran."