Work to tear down the former Englee fish plant on the Northern Peninsula started Tuesday, little more than a month after the provincial government announced plans to do the demolition work after the plant’s owners failed to do so.
Sea Treat Ltd., the Daley Bros. subsidiary company that owned the plant, declared bankruptcy in 2007. The plant had been closed and abandoned three years earlier.
A portion of the roof fell last winter, and debris from a fallen wall landed in the harbour. A wall with the potential to fall was located directly next to a public road, posing a hazard for drivers.
The company twice failed to comply with the provincial government’s orders to clean up the site under the Environmental Protection Act, leading to the province’s decision to do the job itself.
“We brought in AMEC, who did a further assessment for us, and we reached a conclusion that we couldn’t wait any longer for the owners to take the action that they should, so we stepped in,” said Service NL Minister Paul Davis.
Government intends to send the final bill for the cleanup to the former plant’s owners.
While Englee Mayor Rudy Porter was pleased to see work begin on the plant, he also felt lingering disappointment over the plant’s inability to remain open.
“It’s a bit bittersweet, too, in a sense, because of the fact that it was our livelihood for so long, but of course, it has gone past the point of being useful anymore, so it’s good that it’s going,” said Porter, who went on to note the property had become both a safety hazard and an eyesore.
Porter said the town hopes sorting out
ownership of the site will eventually lead to
finding a new purpose for it, either as the home of a new wharf or a marina. Small Craft Harbours had previously looked at allocating money to build a new wharf in the community, according to Porter.
“We do need some tie-up space,” said Porter.
“We don’t have a lot of that for our fishermen, and indeed a lot of other fishermen who come and pursue the migratory caplin in the spring, and later on in the fall there’s mackerel or herring,” Porter said.
Efforts to hold the owners accountable will continue, according to Davis, who expects the legal process may take time. He said taking ownership of the land may become a part of that effort.
Porter said he was informed it will take six to eight weeks to complete work to clear the site and added a number of local people are being employed in the cleanup.
According to Davis, ammonia and ammonia oil were removed from the cooling system inside the building prior to excavator work. He said that work took place over the course of the week leading up to Tuesday.
The Straits-White Bay North MHA Christopher Mitchelmore said work to tear down the old plant is a good step forward for all parties involved.
“Before the election (in 2011), we pushed for this plant to come down, and now, nearly a year later, it’s starting,” said the NDP member. “It proves that there’s power when people work together and when the citizens really push, because government did listen, and we’re seeing the removal, which is really positive for this town.”
He hopes work to tear down the plant leads to further economic development for the region, suggesting towns in the area should look at pooling resources to employ an economic development officer.