British Columbia

Company pledges clean-up of mill seized by B.C. government

The company that owns an idled pulp mill in Mackenzie, B.C., says it intends to get the facility back in full operation, even though the province recently took it over to prevent a toxic leak.

The company that owns an idled pulp mill in Mackenzie, B.C., says it intends to get the facility back in full operation, even though the province recently took it over to prevent a toxic leak.

Worthington Mackenzie released a statement on Thursday saying it will work with the provincial government to prevent any chemical spill.

Last weekend, the government declared an environmental emergency and seized the mill in Mackenzie, 155 kilometres north of Prince George, after a skeleton crew of workers threatened to shut down the facility. Officials said Worthington Mackenzie had failed to pay the workers for a month.

The workers warned if the mill were shut down, winter temperatures could cause some pipes and tanks to freeze and release toxic chemicals stored at the mill.

Plan in place, says company

Dan White, whose company bought the mill last year, said from Edmonton that Worthington Mackenzie is working on a plan to neutralize the toxic chemicals while it looks for an investor to bring the mill back online.

"Worthington Mackenzie has submitted a plan to the B.C. government for a process that would immediately neutralize the chlorine dioxide and render it harmless. They are also working on a plan to safely manage the other chemicals on-site," White said in the company statement.

In the long term the firm wants to operate the mill, not sell it for scrap, White said.

"Whatever the eventual outcome; the company wants the people of Mackenzie and the people of British Columbia to know that salaries will be paid and the current government investment will be repaid. However, Worthington Mackenzie's first concern and top priority was and remains the safety of the town's people and the environment." 

Minster focused on recovering costs

B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell said he'd take that commitment at face value, but in the meantime, the government's main concern was recovering its costs from the takeover.

"We're interested in pursuing all of the costs associated from any of the work the Ministry of the Environment is doing and we intend to fully track down any of the assets to ensure that happens," said Bell.

"Mr. White and Worthington have significant assets both in Alberta and B.C. and we're looking at all of the options at this point."

Mackenzie Mayor Stephanie Killam told CBC News she wasn't confident she'd ever see White again.

"I still think things will move forward in this community — it just won't be with this gentleman," Killam said.