Big Lakes County denies lease to develop Faust Osmose site

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Big Lakes County would like to see an old contaminated site in Faust turned into a park. But council opposes any plan to lease the Crown land that now includes major costs to the county.

At its March 11 meeting, council defeated a motion to enter into a lease with Alberta Environment and Parks that would have cost the county more than $12,000 in the application process.

Costs would include a historic resources impact assessment and a wildlife survey, which according to county director of planning and development Pat Olansky would be at least $12,000. Olansky did not put a price on consulting eight Indigenous communities, which would also be required.

Councillor Ken Killeen was the first to express an opinion.

“We don’t want to lease the land,” he said.

His colleague Ken Matthews opposed the lease at any cost. Even with consultation, he wonders if a lease and plan would get full support.

“One of the groups may not agree,” he said.

Councillor Robert Nygaard was the only council member to favour the motion to proceed with the lease.

“I can’t see it costing the county a lot of money,” he said.

Council’s vision for the site is to develop a trail system to help build tourism, Nygaard reminded his colleagues. “This is something that could be a big thing for the region.”

Council wants to invite the minister, Jason Nixon, to visit and discuss options for the site.

Faust was the location of a wood-treating plant in the 1960s, 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 contamination spread in the vicinity.

Some remediation work has been done in recent years. It includes ‘capping’ the site.

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