Confusion still surrounds who will spearhead Thunder Bay harbour cleanup

Some 400,000 cubic metres of mercury-contaminated pulp fibre pollute the north end of Thunder Bay’s harbour. Photo Credit: Jamie Saunders/EcoSuperior

After going largely dormant in 2014, Thunder Bay is looking to rebuild a steering committee dedicated to remediating an estimated 400,000 m3 of mercury-contaminated pulp fibre in the north end of the city’s harbour.

The project has struggled with the absence of a lead agency responsible for managing the remediation and applying for funding, but not necessarily footing the bill. While Transport Canada is the owner of the harbour bottom, the industrial companies largely responsible for decades of the pulp and paper mill pollution no longer exist.

Cost estimates discussed in 2014 for remediation options ranged anywhere from $30 million to $90 million, with dredging on the lower end and excavating on the higher end. These options were shared with the public at the time. In addition to mercury, the harbour contains dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, creosote, and polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs.

The north harbour on Lake Superior is listed as an area of concern under bilateral efforts between Canada and the U.S. to clean up the Great Lakes.

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According to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan, a Stage 1 report for the cleanup project was created way back in 1991. That plan was aided by representatives from Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

The CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, Tim Heney, has gone on record as saying the port has been advised by Transport Canada that it should not lead or be a primary funder, but act in an advisory capacity on the project. Heney recently told CBC News that he doesn’t see why Environment Canada would not be the lead on the harbour cleanup project.

Environment Canada has told media in recent months that it too may not be the lead on the project going forward; however, more meetings are expected in months to come.

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