County waiting to ‘hit’ the trails in Faust

An aerial photo shows walking trails proposed for the site of the former Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd. in Faust. The trails show as white lines.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County council isn’t about to hit the trails it proposes to build on a former osmose site in Faust just yet.

Council wants to first confirm if they would be liable for the contaminated soil before they proceed on a lease application with Alberta Environment and Parks for the project.

At its regular meeting May 27, council approved a motion by Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard to table a decision until council receives legal opinion.

“A few years ago, council agreed to apply for a lease on condition the County didn’t carry any liability on the contamination,” Nygaard says.

“Are we liable for the contamination?”

He then states his position in the matter.

“If we are responsible for the liability on the pollution, I say no to the lease,” Nygaard says.

CAO Jordan Panasiuk says the County will get legal advice on the matter and return the issue with options to a council meeting.

Council tabled a recommendation to withdraw the recreation lease filed by the County to AEP and postpone the project until further notice.

The recommendation was presented by Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

Big Lakes considers the project at it faces a tight budget in an economic recession.

Council is also apprehensive about the high price they are expected to pay in the application and the project that could exceed $1 million.

Annual maintenance ranges from $5,000-$10,000.

“We are concerned about the costs,” Reeve Richard Simard says.

Other council members agreed.

“We approved this three years ago as long as we don’t have to pay a lot of money,” Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor David Marx says.

Council discussed the application and the project at its regular meeting May 13 with AEP officials, who confirmed the site was clean and safe.

To keep a safe distance between walkers and the ground, AEP requires that trails would be on a raised boardwalk.

Olansky reports the cost to design and construct the 3.6 km of boardwalk is estimated at around $784,000 plus the goods and services tax, not including the survey work.

The cost of the wood is pegged at $400,000, the CAO says.

As part of the application, the County would be required to complete a consultation with Indigenous communities estimated at $6,000, Olansky states.

A historic resource impact assessment ranges from $8,500 to $11,000.

However, council was told by AEP officials May 13 that the municipality may apply for an exemption for that.

Two other councillors shared their concerns about the rising costs.

“We already know that we have to do consultation,” North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews says.

“It’s all going to cost us money, there’s not doubt about that.”

South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart agrees.

“It’s going to cost us quite a bit of money,” Stewart says.

Nygaard says many residents are eager to volunteer time and equipment if the project goes ahead.

As part of the application process, Big Lakes would be required to consult East Prairie Metis Settlement, Gift Lake Metis Settlement, Peavine Metis Settlement, Driftpile Cree Nation Kapawe’no First Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Swan River First Nation and Sawridge First Nation.

Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd. operated a plant on the site from 1961-1969.

The business operated a wood-treating and wood-preserving site before a fire and explosion closed the operation.

Several products known to cause cancer were used to treat the wood.

The 1969 fire was the main cause of contaminants that spread in the vicinity.

Contaminants included arsenic, dioxins, chromium and PCPs.

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