The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)

Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

  • Mar. 7, 2021 12:00 a.m.

BY DEBRA LYNN

Port Alice’s dead pulp mill isn’t being demolished, it is being recycled.

The former Neucel Specialty Cellulose mill is under control of a court-appointed receiver, Price Waterhouse Coopers. PWC is overseeing three ongoing tasks: de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring.

According to PWC vice-president Lucas Matsuda, it will take “a number of years to fully clean up” the mill site.

Matsuda outlined that de-risking involves includes the identification, removal and/or disposal of hazardous chemicals and proper storage of materials.

It also includes moving equipment and materials away from the water, clearing paths and roadways and treating an infestation of knotweed. Dangerous structural issues are either repaired or removed. For this process, PWC has employed a number of North Island businesses.

In the category of water treatment, crews are testing and treating the water collected on site and shipping more corrosive water offsite for disposal. Environmental monitoring includes monitoring water levels around the site to ensure that treated water is compliant with various permits.

Although the stage of the environmental recovery is not known, according to Matsuda, “since the mill shut down in 2015, marine life has commenced returning to Neroutsos Inlet.”

“All of the material that is leaving the site is disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Whenever possible, material is being separated and recycled,” Matsuda said.

PWC says it prioritizes awarding contracts to companies that use environmentally sound disposal practices. Any salvage that has cash value is invested into further work on the site.

Approximately 25 people are involved with the mill site cleanup; 90 per cent are from the Tri-Port area or Vancouver Island. Out-of-town workers stay in the Tri-Port area.

“Strict COVID-19 protocols are in place for all out-of-town workers,” Matsuda said

As an active industrial area, the site is patrolled 24/7 by an on-site security service. They patrol the site, identify and report dangerous events, maintain safety precautions and ensure that anyone entering is authorized to do so and abiding by COVID-19 protocols.

“Our COVID-19 protocols meet or exceed government and WorkSafeBC requirements, whether it is questionnaires and temperature readings to enter the site, keeping our work area sanitized (this includes shared equipment) or negative COVID-19 test results for individuals coming from out of province,” Matsuda said. “We are pleased that we have experienced no COVID-19 incidents and we aim to continue in this fashion.”

The security measures also contribute to keeping mill’s state of transformation carefully under wraps: Black Press Media was not even allowed in to take a photo.

Future plans for the mill site, Matsuda said, have not been determined.

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RELATED: Abandoned mill to cost at least $17 million to decommission

RELATED: Pulp mill creditors unlikely to get paid


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