The McLean Mill log pond. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

No ‘imminent’ health risks at McLean Mill, says medical health officer

Remediation costs for historic site raises concerns



McLean Mill does not appear to be contaminating surrounding waterways, but that doesn’t mean the city is out of the woods when it comes to clean up and remediation costs.

Council heard an update Monday on results of testing done this spring at the national historic site.

READ: McLean Mill Historic Site needs further testing

A septic system inspection and environmental investigation were undertaken after an accidental release of log pond water into Kitsuksis Creek last September raised concerns about possible contamination.

“I’m glad to hear there are no immediate emergencies at McLean Mill,” said Councillor Debbie Haggard after Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer, reviewed findings of an environmental investigation by consultant TerraWest.

As well, Tobin Laughlin told council his inspection of three septic systems at the site revealed no contamination and no health concerns. A lack of proper documentation for work done over the years complicated the inspection, he noted. However, the aging infrastructure will require maintenance at a cost still to be determined.

“We’re on borrowed time with that, for sure,” said Councillor Ron Paulson, wondering about a time frame for remediation.

The city called on Hasselback to provide expertise on the environmental analysis completed in April. He concluded, despite the presence of toxic contaminants from the mill’s industrial operations dating back half a century, that “no imminent health risks warrant immediate action” by the city. The analysis confirmed earlier findings of trace amounts of metals and chlorinated phenols, residues from oil storage, vehicle maintenance and wood treatment.

While Terrawest recommended further investigation, Hasselback suggested neighbours of the old mill face greater health risks from vehicles travelling to the site.

“There’s not a lot that suggests you’ve got a real problem on your hands,” the health officer said.

“This has been a very challenging issue,” concluded Mayor Sharie Minions. “It’s been a learning process for all of us.”

Mayor and council agreed to have a staff report prepared on septic system remediation and next steps.

They had an earful earlier in the meeting from a pair of outspoken critics, upset by the city’s handling of the matter. Roland Smith complained he was stonewalled while attempting to find the truth about McLean Mill, which he considers a costly white elephant.

RELATED: Alberni resident wants answers about railway

“There is a problem here and it’s bigger than a molehill,” Smith said.

John Adams argued that the sewage inspection was not properly certified, a claim later refuted by Laughlin.

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