Alberni on hook for Catalyst lagoon clean up

The City of Port Alberni is on the hook for costs to remove 5,800 tonnes of sludge from the lagoon it is purchasing from Catalyst.

The City of Port Alberni will be on the hook for costs to remove sludge from the lagoon it is purchasing from Catalyst Paper Corp., city manager Ken Watson said.

The development came as a result of a question from Coun. Hira Chopra during discussion about the loan authorization for purchase of the lagoon.

“How much is it going to cost for removing the sludge?” Chopra asked.

Watson replied that there were several unknown variables that prevented him from disclosing an exact dollar figure. It’s not known yet how much sludge there is in the lagoon, Watson said. As well, the removal cost will likely be based on a per tonne basis, but until it’s known how much there is, a dollar figure can’t be calculated.

Sludge removal was done at least a decade ago, he said, and is regular if infrequent maintenance.

The city knew about the sludge during negotiations with Catalyst. “It wasn’t a hidden thing or just sprung on us,” Chopra said after the meeting.

What is known is that the removal cost isn’t part of the $5.75 million loan the city is applying for to purchase the lagoon and land for a new truck route, Watson said.

The city will be responsible for removing the sludge while Catalyst will pick up the tab for disposing of it afterward, Watson added.

City engineer Guy Cicon said Wednesday there is approximately 5,800 tonnes of non-toxic paper-making fibre sludge accumulated over numerous years.

The city will fund the lagoon’s subsequent upgrade and rehabilitation using grants as well as its own money.

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