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Fencing has been installed as other workers drill core samples (R) in a contaminated parcel at the old wood treatment plant site, Domtar, where a section of unoccupied land nearby was contaminated enough that a metal fencing was erected near 43 St. and Yellowhead Tr. in Edmonton, June 28, 2018. The minister of environment and parks has accepted an appeals board recommendation to reverse all enforcement orders previously imposed on a northeast Edmonton site that housed a former wood treatment plant.

In her decision, Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips agreed with the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) findings to reverse a number of environmental protection orders against companies connected to the former Domtar site.

The Domtar plant, which operated from 1924 to 1987 north of Yellowhead Trail, used toxic chemicals to treat railroad ties, poles, posts and lumber.

Cherokee Canada Inc. — a development company which bought the former Domtar site in 2010 — and the province have been tied up in a complicated dispute since 2016 when Alberta Environment first issued environmental protection orders against the company.

About a year ago, the province also warned about 140 homeowners in the Verte Homesteader neighbourhood about contaminated soil in the area. A large portion of the 37-hectare property was fenced off and warning signs were placed to tell people to stay off the land.

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The EAB’s report found that Cherokee “legitimately believed they had obtained the required authorization” and the decision to “issue the enforcement orders with respect to the Verte Homesteader Community was both incorrect and unreasonable.”

It also found the decision by Michael Aiton, director of regional compliance for the Red Deer-North Saskatchewan region operations division of Alberta Environment and Parks, to issue the enforcement orders was both “incorrect and unreasonable.”

The board found this was because his approach of immediate removal would likely “create a greater risk and significantly greater disruption to the residents than developing a well-considered and properly executed plan to address the concerns.”

In her decision, Phillips said her main priority is to the residents around the site.

“I must ensure their health, safety, and well-being in both the short-term and the long-term,” she said.

Cherokee says they are pleased with the minister’s decision.

“This report confirms that we conducted the remediation based on sound science and in compliance with the plans submitted and approved by Alberta Environment and Parks until their change of position by new staff years later,” said John Dill, managing director of Cherokee in a statement.

However, Phillips did not consider n ew information brought forward by Alberta Health last week citing concerns about the levels of dioxins and furans in the soil and higher rates of breast cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer in the area.

“It would be inappropriate for me to consider the additional information released by the director and Alberta Health,” stated Phillips. “The additional information was not before the board, and the parties to these appeals have not had an opportunity to provide the board — and therefore, me — with their input regarding this additional information.” New timeline for Cherokee, Domtar

Phillips decision included a ministerial order outlining a detailed timeline for Cherokee and Domtar to complete within a year. Cherokee must look after the Verte Homesteader community while Domtar will look at the Greenbelt and Overlanders community.The companies must develop and implement a dust control program, site delineation plan, conceptual site model including historical and recent data from samples taken of the site to “clearly define the presence of contaminants.”The two companies will also have to complete a human health risk assessment and site-specific risk assessment and develop a risk-management plan and a […]

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