Possible contaminants buried in Tolko's Kelowna mill site remain unknown | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Possible contaminants buried in Tolko's Kelowna mill site remain unknown

Kelowna's Tolko mill has been partially dismantled but it could be another year before they say what contaminants are on site.

Tolko had a year after it got a demolition permit for its closed Kelowna lumber mill to let the Ministry of Environment know what potentially harmful materials were on site.

Their deadline was Feb. 20 of this year but, on Dec. 4, 2020, the company sent a letter to the Ministry asking for an extension until next February to do that work.

In the letter, Tolko identified “24 areas of potential environmental concern,” states an email from the Ministry of Environment.

Tolko's letter said, based on the data collected, the concerns rated a “non-high risk Site Risk Classification.”

The Ministry hasn't reached that conclusion yet.

“Other than what was stated in the letter from Tolko, the responsible party has not submitted the required site investigation information that would allow the ministry to estimate the potential risks to human health and the environment,” the Ministry of Environment email states.

“While detailed analysis is ongoing, we are pleased with the overall condition of the site given the history of industrial operations,” Tolko said in an email, noting it’s not unusual for the Ministry to grant extensions.

A third-party environmental firm is conducting the research and following government rules, Tolko said.

“The professionals conducting the site investigation have used provincial protocols to confirm the site is not high risk to the environment or human health,” it says, noting samples have been taken from all sites that might be contaminated and testing is now moving beyond the “industrial parameters,” the Tolko email states.

“The Kelowna site is large and complex with a long history of industrial activity and we are taking our time to ensure this is done right, the Tolko email states.

Industrial operations, such as lumber mills, have a year after getting a demolition permit to file a “Detailed Site Investigation” report so the Ministry of Environment can determine if it’s a contaminated site and what remedial action needs to be taken.

READ MORE: Will Kelowna’s lakefront Tolko mill site be a city amenity?

Tolko applied for the demolition permit from the city last February to demolish six of the buildings on site. It cannot get additional permits of any sort without Ministry of Environment approval.

The Ministry gave no indication of how long it will take to respond to Tolko’s letter.

The mill operated in Kelowna since the 1930s but was closed permanently last January after being on temporary shutdown for some months before.

READ MORE: Changing times: Tolko closure marks the end of a way of life, says local historian

At that time, the 40-acre property was estimated to be worth about $50 million.

READ MORE: Kelowna's downtown Tolko mill site is likely worth close to $50 million

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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