The abandoned Port Alice pulp mill. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

The abandoned Port Alice pulp mill. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Local opinions vary on abandoned Port Alice pulp mill cleanup

Port Alice residents have a broad variety of opinions about the pulp mill cleanup

WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN

Port Alice residents have a broad variety of opinions about the abandoned pulp mill.

Owned by Neucel but under the control of the court-appointed receiver, Pricewaterhouse Coopers Inc (PWC) since 2020, the decommissioning of the mill has already consumed $5 million dollars.

PWC has had to apply to the courts for additional funding up to $39.743 million, which was approved by the bankruptcy court in June.

Although Neucel is in bankruptcy, its parent company, Fulida, Chinese-owned, is listed as a main creditor. Fulida would, therefore, be first to receive reparations if there is any money to be made from the dissolution and sale of the Neucel site.

Port Alice resident Ron Thompkins is very frustrated by the whole situation, saying that Fulida “should be cleaning it up, they bought it! The fact that they’re walking away and holding the biggest note when it sells—if there’s any money left, they’re gonna get it! That’s wrong! Totally wrong!”

Linda James suggested that the situation is like losing her house in a bankruptcy, but, after naming her husband as creditor, she still gets to live in it.

Longtime resident Walter Able is grateful for the benefits the mill has provided his family. “Only ten minutes to work in the morning and it raised our four children… a couple of them worked there, so it was all good.” He feels the expense might be worth it if they “clean it all up so we can do something with it and get some money out of it.” He believes the site would be a good location for a fish farm.

Another resident, who requested to remain anonymous, has heard “some horror stories” about people getting sick at Victoria Lake from mill smoke, finding batteries in the inlet, and about “stuff that’s leaking into the ground for that many years.” Although he calls the nearly 40 million dollars required to do the job a “ludicrous amount,” he’s glad that the mill is no longer open.

“Well, it has to be cleaned up doesn’t it, so what’s the problem?” says another anonymous responder. “I mean we pay for everything else that we don’t want to, what’s the big deal, it’s got to be cleaned up! What are we going to do, leave it to rot?” She then added “It’s not a lot of money nowadays, really.”

Recreational property owner Ann Harrison says that it’s “quite a huge expense to have it taken apart, but I think it needs to be taken apart and not just left.”

As for the future of the site, she adds, “I hope it’s used for something for shipping because it’s an excellent port… or maybe recreational, something for tourists, campground, hotel… it’s a beautiful area.”

Cathy Anderson says, “Taxpayers have to pay for that when there’s a company [who owns it] that’s really rich…” She acknowledges that the cleanup is necessary, saying, “We’ve been here 48 years and we’ve seen the difference… our environment has changed because the mill is gone. It’s sad too because if it wasn’t for the mill and logging, we wouldn’t have Port Alice.”

As for the future of that location, Anderson believes it should be used as a deep seaport. She said that, in the past, it was used to transport logs in barges, but now all logs are trucked out.

Owner of Port Alice Petroleum Products, Marny Graham, says “Good riddance!” to the pulp mill. She is tired of jobs and friends coming and going. She sighs, “I’m just kind of glad it’s gone now.”


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