Prov­ince tack­les Hawkes­bury cleanup

Com­mu­nity group says plan to ad­dress water­front falls short

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - BY PA­TRICK DARE

For decades, the Town of Hawkes­bury has lived with the fact that its down­town water­front was a dump for a pa­per mill, one per­mit­ted by the On­tario gov­ern­ment.

Now the prov­ince is push­ing ahead to clean up some of that water­front, but a com­mu­nity group says the plan falls far short.

Hawkes­bury, on the Ottawa River, was a pop­u­lar place to build a mill, with 22 of them op­er­at­ing in the early 19th cen­tury. Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional Pulp and Pa­per (CIP) was one of the big mills in the 20th cen­tury, pro­vid­ing some of the high­est-paid jobs in town with its pa­per-mak­ing op­er­a­tion. It closed in 1982, putting 440 peo­ple out of work.

The prov­ince al­lowed CIP to dump cel­lu­lose waste into a “wet la­goon” in the river, some of which was pulled out and placed in “dry la­goons” nearby. The prov­ince even al­lowed the wet la­goon to be used as a land­fill for mill build­ings be­ing de­mol­ished in the 1980s. CIP was al­lowed to walk away from the mess without pro­vid­ing com­pen­sa­tion.

Ever since, the la­goon has been a smelly re­minder of how pol­lu­tion and a lack of pub­lic vig­i­lance can harm de­vel­op­ment of a com­mu­nity. While wa­ter­fronts have be­come at­trac­tions for cit­i­zens and vis­i­tors in other On­tario com­mu­ni­ties, such as Pem­broke and Brockville, Hawkes­bury’s is an eye­sore and con­sid­ered an un­us­able safety haz­ard by the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

Af­ter many years of tests, re­ports and lob­by­ing, the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources is invit­ing com­pa­nies to bid on a project to have sludge taken out of the wet la­goon and placed on the west­ern por­tion of the site, cov­ered with at least 0.76 me­tres of soil, which would be planted with grass. Pipes would be in­stalled in the hills of sludge to vent meth­ane gas. The project would cost $20 mil­lion.

Jean-Marc Lalonde, the MPP for Glen­garry-Prescott-Rus­sell, says he sup­ports the project as pro­posed be­cause that’s what the gov­ern­ment’s en­gi­neer­ing ex­perts have rec­om­mended and the re­sult will be a beau­ti­ful park. Gar­dens, paths and benches would be in­stalled. Lalonde says mov­ing all of the con­tam­i­na­tion out of the town would cost up to $60 mil­lion. He said that kind of spending was not needed to cre­ate open greenspace. He doesn’t want the water­front to be­come a de­vel­op­ment site.

How­ever, a cit­i­zens’ group headed by Hawkes­bury busi­ness­man René Berthi­aume calls the pro­posed project a capped land­fill that, he says, will only be a mon­u­ment to the legacy of pol­lu­tion left by CIP and al­lowed by for­mer pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments. Berthi­aume, a for­mer fed­eral can­di­date, says Hawkes­bury’s water­front is its fu­ture as a com­mu­nity and it should be used as open space and for care­fully thought out de­vel­op­ment.

Berthi­aume says that his group, the Hawkes­bury Water­front De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, wants a true re­me­di­a­tion done. He says the group has talked to an en­gi­neer­ing firm that be­lieves the ma­te­rial can be taken out of the la­goon, dried and treated, then used as a soil con­di­tioner. He says there’s no rea­son to leave hills of the stuff above ground.

Berthi­aume says the water­front cor­po­ra­tion be­lieves full re­me­di­a­tion of the pub­lic prop­erty can be done for the $20 mil­lion, with the pub­lic prop­erty on that part of the river re­turned to its nat­u­ral state. He says the prov­ince could fix the process by mak­ing a mi­nor amend­ment to the project-bid­ding doc­u­ment, al­low­ing com­pa­nies to do a full re­me­di­a­tion.

Berthi­aume’s group has been work­ing to raise aware­ness about the project and have it changed. It will hold a pub­lic meet­ing in Hawkes­bury on Sept. 14, when one of the op­tions to be dis­cussed will be the pos­si­bil­ity of a le­gal chal­lenge.

Mered­ith Brown, the River­keeper of the Ottawa River, says the prov­ince should help Hawkes­bury do a full clean-up of the site since the prov­ince let CIP walk away in the 1980s.

Alex Gard­ner, district man­ager of the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, said the min­istry was open to “in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions.” He said the sub­stan­tial work of the project would be­gin next sum­mer and take three to four years to com­plete.

BRUNO SCH­LUM­BERGER, THE OTTAWA CI­TI­ZEN

Hawkes­bury area MPP Jean Marc Lalonde sup­ports the ex­ist­ing plan on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s en­gi­neer­ing ex­perts.

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