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Tembec gets Cranbrook mill site set for sale

Tembec has demolished the buildings at its Cranbrook site damaged in a fire last November. The forestry company continues reclamation work on the site of the old planer mill, preparing the industrial site for sale. - Sally MacDonald photo
Tembec has demolished the buildings at its Cranbrook site damaged in a fire last November. The forestry company continues reclamation work on the site of the old planer mill, preparing the industrial site for sale.
— image credit: Sally MacDonald photo

Tembec is working to remediate the site of its decommissioned sawmill and planer mill in Cranbrook's industrial area.

After being shut down in 2010, the planer mill remained standing until it was destroyed by a fire last November.

Since then, Tembec has been working to clean up the site of the planer mill, and continues to do remediation work throughout the 38-hectare property.

Earlier this month, the forestry company received $94,288 from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to conduct testing on the property, looking for contamination by hydrocarbons – oil products.

The funding means Tembec can continue the testing it started on the site last year, which was forced to a halt when the fire hit.

"We had done a significant amount of site assessment – which typically involves drilling holes, soil samples, air samples, water samples – across the spectrum of the site to see if there are any deposits there that should be of concern," said Dennis Rounsville, Tembec's president of the forest products group.

"In terms of covering the site, we got through a fair amount last year but then we had the fire at the planer and it kind of stopped us from carrying on with that end of the mill site."

With the additional provincial funding, Tembec will be able to perform testing around the site of the planer mill.

"This will be completing a little bit of what we started last year in terms of the area covered and completing the rest of the site, more around the northern end where the planer is," said Rounsville.

Tembec shut down the Cranbrook sawmill in 1999, but the planer mill continued to operate until 2010. The kilns were turned off for good in May 2012.

"We had done a lot of site remediation when we closed the sawmill. So we expect the tests will come up and verify that: that most if not all of that remediation has been done," said Rounsville, adding that the sawmill was taken down in the early 2000s. The buildings that stand on the site make up the finger joint plant.

Last year's testing around the sawmill site didn't find contamination, but testing this year will confirm that.

"We don't know of anything that is a major concern on the site. Where we had hydrocarbons in the soil from before, 15 years ago, we treated those on the site," said Rounsville. "We think that this year's sampling will say that they are inert now and back to normal status."

Testing will also be conducted around the site of the planer mill, he went on.

"Future tests we'll do more around the planer because we didn't remediate there. Planers don't have that many large moving parts and mobile equipment or anything that uses a lot of hydrocarbons, so we don't expect anything very much around that site."

A fire on November 1, 2012, caused extensive damage to the planer mill, and this year from April to June, Tembec hired local contractors to demolish the building.

"We weren't looking at rebuilding because the damage was so extensive," said Rounsville. "We had to take everything down. That was the first step, making sure that we took everything down and got rid of every hazard."

Tembec hopes to get the all-clear that the site is free from contamination, then begin to seek interested buyers.

"Then we would hope there would be some interested buyers in there at that time," said Rounsville.

He hopes that remediation work will be completed this year.

"These things do take time. But we are being very proactive in trying to get through it so the site can be reutilized. I think the city would like to see it redeployed to get some new industrial activity there," said Rounsville.

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