In what’s anticipated to be the lengthiest appeal on record, Cherokee Canada is fighting five enforcement orders imposed by Alberta Environment and Parks connected to an old wood treatment facility.
The developer has started turning the old Domtar site in northeast Edmonton into a new residential community but legal proceedings have halted the project.
“It’s been very difficult because it’s effectively frozen our activities for three years now,” said John Dill, Cherokee Canada’s managing partner.
“It’s very expensive to go through this process.”
Houses have already been built in the Homesteader neighbourhood but recently, the province questioned the safety of the soil.
Alberta Environment said third party testing at the site found chemicals dangerous to human health. The orders require Cherokee to remediate any contamination.
“The core aspect of these orders is to basically remove potentially large amounts of soil from these sites,” said Gilbert Van Nes, general counsel for the Environmental Appeals Board. “Domtar and Cherokee disagree that this is necessary.”
Both Cherokee Canada and Domtar have completed remediation efforts but are now being told they didn’t go far enough.
“Our approach was to take the contaminated soil, isolate it in a separate soil berm — again, a common practice in other jurisdictions — and ensure the soil was protected from exposure to other receptors, humans, animal,” Dill said.
“The disagreement is over how we can remediate this site so it’s safe for residential standards so that we can complete our residential development and restore the site that was previously contaminated to productive use.”
Three environmental experts are heading up the independent appeal board.
The board will pass its findings on to the environment minister and Shannon Phillips will make the final decision on whether construction can resume. However, a decision is not expected until December.