Northern Ontario refinery site 'looks like hell,' years after cleanup orders

The residents of Coleman Township in northern Ontario are anxious to turn the page on an abandoned industrial site.

Province says 'significant' fine levied after owner refuses to comply with court orders

The Cobalt Refinery site (centre) was built in 1949 and operated as a cobalt/silver refinery until 1968. Since that time it has operated as a metal processing facility and, more recently, as a producer of ferric chloride for waste water treatment with the recovery of elemental copper as a by-product. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change says the site received, processed and disposed of a range of solid and liquid waste materials. The primary contaminants are metals, such as copper and iron. (Google)

The residents of Coleman Township in northern Ontario are anxious to turn the page on an abandoned industrial site.

Alfred Tenny and his numbered company own the Cobalt Refinery site, but according to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, it hasn't been in-use since about 2007 and was never cleaned up, despite provincially-issued court orders to do so.

As a result of his failure to clean-up the site, Tenny and his company have been fined a total of $1.52M and a victim surcharge of $380,000. News of the fine came earlier this week from the province.

Coleman Township mayor Dan Cleroux says residents have been waiting for years for the Cobalt Refinerty site to be cleaned up. (Dan Cleroux)

"It just looks like hell," Coleman Township mayor Dan Cleroux told CBC News.

"We want to work with everybody to try to clean the place up," he said. "That's our main focal point in Coleman Township: get that area cleaned up and bring it back to nature."

According to the province, the facility served as a cobalt and silver refinery from 1949 until 1968. From then until 2007, it operated as a metal processing facility and as a producer of ferric chloride for wastewater treatment.

In 2015, Tenny and his company were convicted of non-compliance with a court order under the Environmental Protection Act, the ministry said in a press release.

As part of that conviction, the owner was issued further orders that mandated a number of cleanups at the site be done, subject to ongoing inspection by the province.

None of the remediation was completed by the deadlines that were imposed, the province said.

CBC News has not been able to reach Alfred Tenny for comment.

Ministry to start cleanup as early as November

Residents have been waiting a long time to see the property restored, Cleroux said.

"I know that our residents ... once the place is cleaned up ... would not want another industrial site on that particular area," he said.

"That site is located right on the Montreal River."

In an email to CBC News, the environment ministry said that there's no evidence that any waste has leaked off the site and into the water. Still, the ministry confirmed it will be hiring experts to remove liquid wastes starting as early as November.

Provincial officials said the fine imposed was a "significant" one.

"This is a significant conviction and fine and is the result of the owner's failure, despite clear direction and time, to clean-up the site," a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.