On Wednesday morning details surrounding the possible sale of Watson Island came to the surface, and it certainly wasn’t what was expected.
Yes, we knew Colonial Coal and the Coast Tsimshian had an exclusivity agreement to look at purchasing the land so that wasn’t much of a surprise. What was a bit of a surprise was the low dollar figure associated with the sale. As mentioned in the Northern Connector on Friday, the $5 million the City will be getting is well below the $13 million it was looking for in the tax sale in 2009 and even below the $6.48 million Sun Wave owed in back taxes.
And while my first reaction to question why the City would be willing to let it go for such a cheap price, upon further reflection it makes complete sense.
First and foremost, anything that gets that property out of City hands and closer to being on the tax roll year after year is nothing but a good thing. It certainly isn’t helping at all being City property.
Secondly, I don’t think anyone really realized how bad things were out there in terms of the clean-up effort needed. Consider this from current court filings:
“The chemicals include 1.5 million gallons of black liquor resulting from kraft processes (in various forms and strengths); more than 500 tonnes of pulp left in various vessels; 10% and 50% caustic soda; 23 tonnes of sulphur currently stored in the warehouse, which is damaged and leaking; 30,000 bbls [barrels] bunker C fuel oil; 50,000 cubic metres of hog fuel, which requires a large volume of water to dilute the leachate; PCBs; 38 nuclear devices…There is asbestos throughout the lands, including siding lying on the ground.”
Cleaning that up isn’t going to be easy or cheap, and with that in mind the $5 million price tag seems like a good deal for an essentially contaminated site.