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Waterways deemed safe after effluent spill at Cariboo fibreboard plant

Officials say nearby river not impacted by West Fraser Timber Quesnel factory incident
West Fraser Timber’s MDF plant in Quesnel the site of an effluent spill now under investigation. The waste chemicals reportedly did not make it into the nearby Fraser River.

No waterways have been impacted from a spill at a West Fraser Timber-owned factory in Quesnel early this week.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment was on-scene at the WestPine Medium-Density Fibreboard plant on Carradice Road on April 15 at 4:30 p.m to investigate after they were notified of a 2.5-million litre effluent spill.

The liquid substance that spilled was being piped between that operation and a nearby pulp mill.

According to the factory’s owner, West Fraser Timber, it was the company’s own system that made the discovery.

“On Monday, April 15, West Fraser’s internal monitoring system detected a leak of process water, comprised of water softener backwash, on a line running from the WestPine Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF) plant to Quesnel River Pulp, where it is processed,” said West Fraser spokesperson Joyce Wagenaar.

“West Fraser reported the spill immediately to our regulator and undertook a cleanup effort which is now complete. West Fraser is committed to being responsible stewards of the environment and protecting the health and safety of our employees and the public.”

Wagenaar says in the statement that the effluent is within B.C.’s water quality safety levels, based on an initial evaluation.

She says the effluent is “water softener backwash” that contains concentrations of calcium carbonate and chloride.

The ministry says an environmental emergency officer intends to visit the site this week to confirm West Fraser is taking appropriate action.

“Northern Health, and the First Nations Health Authority have been notified, and thus far, they have not raised any concerns regarding public health impacts, particularly related to drinking water,” the ministry statement said.

“Currently, the ministry does not perceive an imminent or acute risk to the environment.”

WestPine MDF’s staff have contracted a company to remediate the site and remove the effluent.

- with a file from The Canadian Press