Sawmill owners ordered to pay $12,000

The owners of a now-closed mill near Watson Lake have paid a $12,000 fine in territorial court. The South Yukon Forest Corp.

The owners of a now-closed mill near Watson Lake have paid a $12,000 fine in territorial court.

The South Yukon Forest Corp. pleaded guilty to two charges related to non-compliance with a protection order served in 2010, said Richard Potvin, manager of the compliance arm of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

The order related to the clean-up of soil contaminated by an apparent slow leak in a diesel tank left on the site.

“That protection order spoke specifically to the capturing and recovery of the fuel, the fuel and water mixture, the recovery of the contaminated soil and the disposal of it or treatment of it and then the rehabilitation of the site,” Potvin said.

The mill site opened in 1998 but was closed permanently two years later.

According to an agreed statement of fact filed in the case, the 88,000-litre above-ground diesel tank was left in place after the mill closed. Some diesel was left in the tank.

In 2005 the company arranged to have contaminated soil evacuated from the site. All the identified soil was removed and the government approved the work, the documents say.

In 2006 a small but growing diesel stain was identified.

The company denied that the stain was coming from the tank but said they would address the concerns.

In 2009 inspections found the soil had not been addressed.

In 2010 the company pumped some, but not all, diesel from the north compartment of the two-compartment tank, the documents say.

Later that year the protection order was issued.

It ordered that all fuel be removed, the tank be properly sealed, and the affected area be restored, by January 2011.

When inspectors found no action had been taken, charges were filed in December 2012.

Potvin called the leak minor in some ways. Staff put down absorbent material and drip pans and are hopeful most of the fuel did not reach the soil, he said.

“There’s still some contamination of the soil we had hoped the industry would recover,” he said.

The volume of contaminated soil is hard to determine.

The court documents note that soil sampling hasn’t been conducted since the clean-up activities in 2005.

The lease on the land officially expired this year, reverting ownership back to the government.

This means the government will begin a “thorough assessment” of the property this summer, Potvin said.

Much of the infrastructure left in 2000 remains of the site.

“Now we will need to move forward with the drainage of the fuel tank completely and the recovering of the contaminated soil,” Potvin said.

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