Federal officials to rebuild Thunder Bay harbour cleanup committee

Federal officials say they expect to reconvene a committee of stakeholders involved in a proposed cleanup of the Thunder Bay north harbour by the end of the month.

Steering committee largely went dormant after 2014

A thick layer of pulpy fibrous material like this sample above is suspended in the water at the Thunder Bay north harbour site. (Jamie Saunders/EcoSuperior)

Federal officials say they expect to reconvene a committee of stakeholders involved in a proposed cleanup of the Thunder Bay north harbour by the end of the month.

Talks between Environment and Climate Change Canada, Transport Canada, the province and local proponents of remediating a toxic patch of old pulp fibre at the north end of the harbour began to pick up this year after a steering committee effectively dissolved in the years since a number of options were presented in 2014.

No preferred option was ever identified after a series of open houses at the time, largely because no organization or government department was ever chosen to lead a cleanup. That jurisdictional uncertainty over who decides how the project would move forward still needs to be addressed.

A number of stakeholders met in April to discuss the proposed June talks. At the time, proponents were looking to bring the City of Thunder Bay and nearby landowners on board.

The new committee's role will be to "identify and address information gaps, determine the feasibility of the various sediment management strategy options, and to identify a preferred option to manage the contaminated sediments," Environment Canada told CBC News in an emailed statement.

The department said the options discussed in 2014 "are still valid." At the time, cost estimates ranged anywhere from $30 million to $90 million.

While Environment Canada has said governments usually attempt to apply a "polluter-pay principle" in remediation efforts, in Thunder Bay's case, the companies largely responsible for the legacy pollution no longer exist.

The north harbour is listed as an area of concern under bilateral efforts between Canada and the United States to clean up the Great Lakes.

"Environment and Climate Change Canada remains committed to engaging all levels of government and non-government organizations to advance sediment remediation and the other remaining projects," the department's statement said.