Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay harbour cleanup group wants answers in 2016

The local group behind efforts to clean up Thunder Bay's harbour says it's looking for some answers in the new year about how to clean up a large patch of toxic waste in the water.

Public advisory committee to the Remedial Action Plan seeking "a route forward" in March

A Thunder Bay group behind efforts to clean up 22 hectares of mercury-contaminated sediment in Thunder Bay's harbour is looking for answers in 2016. (infosuperior.com/Google)

The local group behind efforts to clean up Thunder Bay's harbour says it's looking for some answers in the new year about how to clean up a large patch of toxic waste in the water.

Environment Canada is taking the lead to remediate a 20 hectare area of mercury-contaminated pulp fibre at the north end of the harbour.

The province, industry along the waterfront and local groups, including the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan are involved.

Jim Bailey, the co-ordinator of the Remedial Action Plan, said the goal is to have a cleanup plan in place by March.
Jim Bailey is the co-ordinator of the Remedial Action Plan. (LinkedIn)

"There's been no definite response to that [request] but at least a bit of a timeline is on the table now," he said.

"We're hoping that the various organizations involved can come back by March with some kind of a route forward, or at least an outline."

The toxic patch, which consists of pulp dumped into Lake Superior over decades of industrial use along the waterfront, sits offshore from the old Superior Fine Papers site, near the mouth of the Current River. It consists of over 350,000 cubic metres of mercury-soaked fibre.

There are currently two options being considered for its removal, Bailey said. One is transporting the waste to a secure disposal facility near Chippewa Park. The other option is building a new containment structure at, or adjacent to, the old mill site.

"There are significant costs associated with both of these options, and there are certain risks associated with both of these options," he said.

A "complex process"

Presenting a definitive cleanup plan may not be simple.

In an e-mailed statement to CBC News, Natalie Huneault, a spokesperson with Environment Canada confirmed that the agency is still leading efforts to clean up the harbour, "including evaluating options and approaches for the cleanup of contaminated sediments in Thunder Bay North Harbour."

As for any timelines associated with the cleanup, Huneault wrote that "remediating contaminated sediments in particular is a complex issue and a timeline for it resolution has not been established."

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