North

What NTCL did with 'the worst of the environmental concerns' in Hay River

Internal emails provided to CBC News detail a plan carried out last month by Northern Transportation Company Ltd. to move 'all and any environmental issue' off two Hay River lots the company has been trying to sell.

Emails reveal plan to move materials to back lots to help complete sale of shipyard

Officials at NTCL asked on-the-ground staff at the company's Hay River operations to move materials away from the shipyard to help with the property's sale, internal emails reveal. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Internal emails provided to CBC News detail a plan carried out last month by Northern Transportation Company Ltd. to move "all and any environmental issue" off two Hay River lots the financially-troubled company has been trying to sell.

The barrels and drums, some dating back 40 years, may have included materials like paint thinner, antifreeze and oil-contaminated water, and were moved from the shipyard to two smaller back lots, according to people with knowledge of the incident who have been granted anonymity. 

Some of the barrels that were moved in September, in their new location. (submitted by Mark Lyon)

On Sept. 16, Bill Smith, NTCL's vice-president of logistics and business development, wrote Steve Ingram, the company's shipyard and marine manager in Hay River, N.W.T.

Smith attached a map of the shipyard.

The map showing the two larger lots encompassing NTCL's Hay River shipyard, and the two smaller lots where the materials were moved. (CBC)

"You can see the two big lots and the two small lots," wrote Smith. "Everything to the two small lots as discussed!!!"

It is not clear if the two smaller lots, between 100 Street and 103 Street, are for sale, like all the other assets NTCL is trying to sell off to generate some of the cash needed to pay off banks owed $130 million.

'As soon as possible'

Minutes after receiving Smith's Sept. 16 email, Ingram sent instructions to staff working at the shipyard. 

Calling for "all remaining personnel" to complete the move "as soon as possible," Ingram instructed: "Relocate all and every environmental issue, containers, barrels, drums, pails, etc to the two small back lots as per the attached drawing.

The NTCL shipyard in Hay River. (NTCL)

"Obviously this is where practical, safe and can be completed without further environmental impact."

Ingram went on: "The idea is to try to isolate the worst of the environmental concerns to specific locations rather than spread all over.

"This is to help head office with their efforts to complete the sale of the assets."

'Part of its regular routines'  

On Wednesday, Mark Fleming, the vice president of NorTerra — the Inuvialuit-owned parent company of NTCL — downplayed the incident.

"Site evaluations are a continual process and the company performs various maintenance, including those outlined in your document, as part of its regular routines," he wrote through a spokesperson.

The company's court protection from creditors expires Oct. 31, and the company has not moved to extend that protection. On Monday, NTCL told employees that they would be permanently terminated on the same day the court protection expires. 

Company mum on cleanup plans 

It's unclear if the sale of the shipyard has occurred.

NTCL began seeking bids for its assets this past summer.

After that process got underway, Kyle Barsi, NTCL's vice president of finance, wrote in an affidavit in early August that it was unlikely NTCL's entire business would be sold. Instead, wrote Barsi, "it is anticipated that there will likely be sales of collections of assets to a number of different parties."

A brochure produced to celebrate NTCL's 75th anniversary, speaking of its many previous incarnations, including as a shipper of uranium ore. (Inuvialuit Development Corporation )

But according to a report filed last week by NTCL's court appointed monitor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, NTCL has chosen only one successful bidder for the purchase of core assets.

"[NTCL] continues to negotiate the terms of the asset purchase agreement with the successful bidder," wrote Sean Fleming of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"The monitor is optimistic that this agreement will be finalized in the next several weeks."

NorTerra's Fleming did not answer questions about whether NTCL sought the necessary authorizations to move the materials, or what steps the company took to make sure the materials were moved safely.

Nor did he provide or point to any remediation plans NTCL has in place for its operations in Hay River. 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca