Still no clear plans for old Grand Falls-Windsor mill site

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'It's absolutely shameful': ORR cleanup plan in the works

'It's absolutely shameful': ORR cleanup plan in the works

Nearly a decade after Abitibi announced it was closing down the paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor after close to a century of production, there's still no word on what will happen to the land it was built on.

A Quebec company completed demolition of the mill in December.

The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor has made a request for pieces of the land, but the province hasn't made a decision.

"What will be important for me is to probably look at this as a whole package." said Minister of Transportation and Works Al Hawkins. "Rather than some individual sections that they're looking at."

Hawkins, who was mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor before resigning to run for the Liberal Party in the 2015 election, said the town's requests are reasonable.

"I certainly have a great passion for this particular area because I know the importance it meant to the community," he said, calling it a shame that the buildings and industry are gone.

"What we've got to do now is preserve as much as we can of that history in whatever form that is."

Hawkins said the town's requests are being considered but didn't have a clear timeline. 

"I would hope that we would have something either later spring or early summer to be able to at least give somebody an idea of how we want to move forward on this," Hawkins told CBC News. 

Environmental Concerns

In 2015 the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor hired a consulting company to look at possible options for the old mill site. People discussed everything from condo developments to tourist attractions. 

But before the land is handed over the there are still questions about the environmental contamination left from the mill. 

A 2010 report, completed by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates for the provincial government, cited problems at various Abitibi sites, and specifically the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor.

The report said some soil and groundwater samples taken in Grand Falls-Windsor significantly exceeded acceptable criteria for arsenic.

Minster Hawkins said there are constant tests to the water system on the site but there have been no further samples taken from the land.