Catalyst developer nailed by Alberta Environment Ministry

There have been numerous communications with Jahn about groundwater contamination

The Alberta Environment Ministry has slapped a contamination remediation order on Edmonton-based businessman Harold Jahn, the developer who is currently purchasing the contaminated Catalyst pulp mill site here in Campbell River.

Ministry spokesperson Jacalyn Ambler says there have been numerous communications with Jahn about groundwater contamination at the site of a shutdown chemical plant in Lamont County northeast of Edmonton, but “no voluntary resolution was forthcoming.”

Lamont County Chief Administrative Officer Al Harvey describes Jahn as a developer who “likes to leave his options open.”

The unfolding contamination drama on Jahn’s Alberta property has potential parallels to what’s happening at the contaminated Catalyst property that Jahn has been in the process of purchasing for $8.6 million since mid-August.

On Dec. 7 the Alberta government ordered Jahn’s company, Heartland Industrial Park Inc., to install a groundwater recovery system on the site of the defunct Bruderheim sodium chlorate chemical plant and to develop a plan to decommission and reclaim the plant.

The government says it tried unsuccessfully to resolve the situation for two years before issuing the order. The plant hasn’t operated since 2006.

Ambler tells the Mirror that contamination has been a problem on the site since the plant was built in 1990. “In the start up phase chlorate, chloride and hexavalent chromium leached into the groundwater. In 1993, a groundwater recovery system was put in operation and it ran until 2010.

“Although the plant has not been in service since 2006, a functioning groundwater recovery system is required to ensure on-site contaminated groundwater is removed and treated.

The recovery system in place has not been operational since approvals for the plant were transferred to Harold Jahn and his company in 2011.”

Jahn tells the Mirror: “We and the previous owner of the site have certain annual ground water monitoring obligations and also a plan for redevelopment for the site under our government approval. These are behind schedule and are in progress.

“A bio-diesel production tenant and an asphalt-water blending facility tenant are actively working towards permits with various government agencies on the property.

“Heartland, with a third party environmental consulting firm, met with Alberta Environment officials over the past year and are working cooperatively towards having the annual ground water monitoring completed and a redevelopment plan submitted over the next nine months,” Jahn says.

Meanwhile, the status of the Catalyst sale remains in limbo. More than a month ago Catalyst announced that Jahn had come up with a partial down payment and that the deadline to finalize the sale had been extended indefinitely.

It was the third extension of the sale completion. Catalyst says nothing has changed since the sale deadline was last extended.

Jahn says his company “Pacifica (Deep Sea Terminals Inc.) and Catalyst are still working through the closing process.”

Jahn will not say how much of the $8.6 million he has paid by way of a down payment or when the deal will be finalized. That, he says, is between him and his investors and Catalyst.

Regardless, development of the Catalyst pulp mill property is “frozen” and the City of Campbell River cannot issue re-development permits.

B.C.’s  Environment Ministry senior contaminated sites officer Vincent Hanemayer has told the Mirror two parallel review processes are underway and until the city receives the appropriate sign-off from the environment ministry the municipality’s ability to “issue demolition, subdivision rezoning, soil removal, development or development variance permits is still frozen.”

After Catalyst announced that Jahn had made a down payment the developer declared the re-named “Pacifica Industrial Park” open for business. Jahn said he was “accepting business and lease proposals for the use of the buildings, lands, and water lots” on the 400-acre site.

Jahn originally told the Mirror: “The current state of the site will be our liability. When we have gone through the sale closing process we will meet with the government’s environmental officials and with the (Catalyst’s) environmental consultant.”