Specialists inspect scene of effluent leak

Specialists from the Ministry of the Environment, Abitibi-Consolidated, the Northwestern Health Unit, and the Town of Fort Frances were scheduled Friday morning to inspect the scene of yesterday’s effluent leak this morning.
The effluent leaked out when an underground pipe carrying it from the mill to the lagoon north of Eighth Street was damaged by a contractor working for the town.
The spill flooded several backyards between Walker Avenue and Cornwall Avenue just north of Sixth Street.
“The thing we have to deal with is the impact in the spill area,” noted Drew Stajkowski, the MoE’s acting area supervisor for the Kenora office.
“We’ll be going property to property to see if there’s any damage,” he said. “We’re recommending you don’t come into contact with this material although it is largely water with some chlorine dioxide.”
Stajkowski added the chlorine dioxide is more environmentally-friendly than most other chlorides.
Residents in the affected area where given a press release by Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. and the Town of Fort Frances yesterday afternoon explaining that contact with the material should not result in any health hazards.
But if contact is made, people were told to have a shower with soap and water.
Residents also were urged to contact the Northwestern Health Unit if the effluent had seeped into their homes.
The effluent–water with dissolved wood and fibre in it–was leaking out of the broken pipe at about 2,000 gallons per minute for two hours.
Contractors, as well as town and mill employees, built dams and pumped out water Thursday to try to control the flood while Abitibi-Consolidated shut down the mill.
The effluent pipe was shut down around noon Thursday and crews worked throughout the day and all night to pump the flooded area clean and ship the effluent to the lagoon.
“What we’re looking at right now is we’re looking at the liquid phase of the spill,” said Stajkowski. “Once that has been treated, we’ll look at other impacts.”
The effluent also was backed up at the mill’s clarifier because the mill’s cooling system continued to run, overflowing it. The effluent flowed into a section of the mill yard where make-shift dikes contained it.
“We built a series of dikes around it and shipped it out to the lagoon,” noted Bill Osterman, Abitibi’s pulp and utilities manager.
The effluent line has since been repaired and the mill was expected to start up again this morning.
On Thursday, residents could only watch as the brown, pungent water crept across their yards, flooding gardens and sheds despite efforts to block the flow.
The Emergency Measures Municipal Control Group, including representatives from the town, Abitibi-Consolidated, the Fire Department, OPP, health unit, La Verendrye hospital, and social housing, met Thursday around 12:30 p.m.
They determined the discharge was not a community disaster as all authorities and communities of interest had been notified and remedial measures already were underway.