Sludge Watch ==> Goodbye Domtar Cornwall kraft mill sludge

M Reilly maureen.reilly at
Wed Dec 15 23:48:04 EST 2004

This pulp mill had a very contentious sludge land application program.
The mill is closing and the biosolids program is dead.
It was famous for having to disclose that their toilets connected to their
paper sludge
digester...resulting in pathogens in the paper sludge.
Now community concern remain about a contaminated groundwater plume that has
made its way
to the St Lawrence River. Test holes on the Domtar site confirm this.

The tap water at the mill is contaminated so the workers have been provided
with bottled drinking water. Domtar doesn't know where the contamination is
coming from.

Domtar Cornwall created a waste mountain that is now a ski hill called Big
Ben...right next to the Walmart.  This toxic legacy will be poisoning
Cornwall long after Domtar is gone.

A special special thanks to David...


Domtar, Cornwall's economic 'rock', to shut key pulp mill
Dates back to 1881

Sean Silcoff
Financial Post

December 10, 2004

The city of Cornwall in eastern Ontario is known for two things: smuggling
and its smell.

The smuggling trade is still thriving, although it's not the headline-maker
it was a decade ago. And yesterday, Domtar Inc., owner of the giant, reeking
smokestack that dwarfs the city of 45,000, said it would shut its kraft pulp
mill on March 8, meaning the industrial city settled by United Empire
Loyalists after the American Revolution will be stench-free for the first
time since the 1800s.

"We lose our smell, but what a cost," said Claude Macintosh, associate
editor and columnist with Cornwall's Standard-Freeholder newspaper, whose
father and brother worked at the plant.

Domtar, based in Montreal, said it will shut the pulp mill, one of three
paper machines and a sheeter in Cornwall "indefinitely," laying off 390
workers there, and another 400 in Canada and the United States.

That will leave Domtar with 488 workers at the Cornwall plant, which makes
thick-coated paper used as covers of annual reports and "opaque plainfield"
for bank statements.

The plant will truck in pulp made elsewhere and its paper production will
fall to 175,000 tonnes per year from 260,000 tonnes, as some production is
dispersed to other plants, said spokesman William George.

Domtar said the shutdown may not be permanent. "Our intention is when
economic and market conditions turn around, we'll be calling [the laid-off
employees] back," he added.

But few doubt the pulp mill, which dates to 1881, will remain closed for
good. The Cornwall plant was one of the smallest and most expensive pulp
plants in Domtar's network, in part because it buys rather than produces its
own energy. A second plant that made recycled pulp closed last year, and
with rising wood, fibre and transportation costs and the falling value of
the U.S. dollar, Domtar said it had to cut deeper to be competitive.

"When the Canadian dollar was significantly weaker it was a profitable
mill," Mr. George said.

Domtar has dominated Cornwall life for decades. Despite being home to a
large textile industry prior to the 1990, Domtar was always the company most
closely associated with the town. In decades past, Domtar employed upward of
1,500 people -- including several generations of some families -- and also
made building products locally.

"Domtar was always the rock," Mr. McIntosh said. It commanded power, fear
and respect of Cornwall citizens, and it had a way of getting what it wanted
(at one point, several city councillors were Domtar employees). In the early
1970s, the city agreed to let Domtar dump its non-hazardous waste in a giant
heap that sits behind a shopping mall. The mini-mountain was called Big Ben.
Domtar funded the operation of a bunny ski hill, which celebrates its 30th
anniversary next month.

Earlier, another Domtar operation that made pipes out of coal tar in
Cornwall buried a substantial amount of the by-product onsite. It's still
there, covered by soil, and the city was forced to build around it at extra
cost when it built a road several years ago. The city also encouraged
builders to use the coal tar pipes to connect homes to sewer mains -- then
established a fund to help homeowners when the pipes began to collapse.

"There was always that fear -- don't get them too upset, which didn't exist"
with other Cornwall firms, Mr. McIntosh said. "There was always this
underlying fear this town would die if Domtar dies."

Initial reaction to the layoffs and shutdown was dire. "It can be difficult
to think of the future on a day like today," said former Cornwall mayor
Brian Sylvester.

But the city has faced worse, and even the loss of the remaining Domtar jobs
wouldn't devastate it. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cornwall lost many
large industrial employers and most of its textile industry, as companies
including Courtauld's, BASF and BCL pulled out of town, laying off
thousands. By the mid-1990s, the unemployment rate in Cornwall exceeded 20%
and two in five people received some form of social assistance.

But in the past five to 10 years, the economy has rebounded and diversified,
thanks to an inflow of new employers in such fields as call centres,
plastics and auto parts manufacturing.

Cornwall's location at the meeting of Ontario, Quebec and New York State,
between Highway 401 and an international bridge, have also turned it into a
transportation hub. The city is now home to a giant, 1.4-million-square-foot
distribution centre that serves Wal-Mart in Eastern Ontario and an auto
parts distributor serving muffler shops in the area . Several of the recent
arrivals employ more than 700 people each. That has helped to drive the
unemployment rate to 5.2% (before the layoffs), below the Ontario and Canada
average. "No question the impact of losing 400 jobs will be significant in
the short term," Terry Landon, president of the Cornwall and Area chamber of
commerce said "But we will survive and we will find jobs for these people."

But many of the jobs coming to the city now pay around $12 to $14 an hour,
compared to over $20 at Domtar.

And while city officials insist Domtar has improved the smell from its pulp
mill in recent years, few will miss the scent. "From a marketing point of
view, it could enhance our chances of attracting other types of businesses
who are ... more sensitive to the odour," said Mayor Phil Poirier.

 National Post 2004

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