Residents plead for more info on effluent spill

A group of alarmed north-end residents attended last night’s town council meeting to demand more information about the mill effluent that flooded their backyards last week.
“It is very scary. Any information we have we’ve obtained on our own,” said Walker Avenue resident Sue Fletcher.
A number of residents on the block between the north end of Walker and Cornwall Avenues still have yellow caution ribbons behind their homes keeping them out of their backyards.
In some cases, the ribbon is attached to the back walls of their homes.
Yet, the residents expressed frustration and confusion on being told the effluent that flooded their properties is not hazardous as it contains only water and wood residue while, at the same time, tests are being conducted to determine what is in it.
They told council last night that according to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) they looked up themselves, the chemicals that could be in the effluent can be a health hazard.
Some plants in their yards have changed colour.
“Does anyone here have any knowledge what chemicals are in the effluent,” asked Fletcher, repeating a question asked several times during the council meeting.
The yellow caution ribbon had been removed, then put back, and no one has approached them with damage claim forms, the residents told council.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon told residents Abitibi-Consolidated’s environmental officer was to report on the contents of the spill to the town and residents following lab tests.
“He will contact us as soon as he has any information broken down in layman’s language, not in engineer’s language”, said the Mayor.
“If you run into any roadblocks, it’s the Town of Fort Frances’ responsibility to make sure we can help you,” he added.
Meanwhile, residents keep waiting – uncertain whether it’s safe to go into their own backyards.
“Everybody tells us it’s not serious, but [to] go ahead, go back there, cut the lawn”, noted resident Marty Bolzan.
The flooding occurred when a contractor working for the Town broke a pipeline carrying the effluent between the mill and its secondary treatment facility (lagoon) last Thursday morning.
The mishap also prompted an emergency shutdown of the mill.