Brink Forest Products owner John Brink has launched a lawsuit against BCR Properties Ltd., claiming the Crown corporation acted fraudulently by trying to hide the true state of the land on which he had intended to build a new sawmill complex.
According to a notice of civil claim filed Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court at Prince George, Brink had planned in 2005 to consolidate all of his facilities at 1077 Boundary Road, a 100-acre site owned by BCR Properties in the BCR industrial area
His plan included building a sawmill, a log sorting facility and a pellet plant and moving his existing facilities, which include three finger-joint lines and a remanufacturing plant to the site.
The claim also states that time "was critical, in that a large inventory of beetle-killed timber was available to be manufactured into lumber."
"It was important for the business plan to proceed quickly, since the inventory of beetle-killed trees is diminishing, as these trees eventually either rot of fall in windstorms, are destroyed in fires or are being harvested by other forest companies," the notice says.
Once an offer to lease was executed, Brink started work immediately and within six months had constructed the foundations and the mill's superstructure and had installed a number of machines with the intent to start processing logs by the 2005-06 winter.
But then Brink became aware that the site included a 22-acre landfill, which contained log yard and sawmill residue, heavy and light petroleum compounds, heavy metals, clinker, copper, mercury and zinc, tires "and many other deleterious substances," for a depth of five to 10 metres.
The site is where the old Netherlands sawmill was once located.
Although the property's state was well known to BCR Properties, Brink claims it failed to produce the relevant environmental reports, which showed in part a number of areas considered "high risk" by the Ministry of Environment.
When BCR finally did hand over the reports to Brink's environmental consultants, it did so "in a reluctant and piecemeal fashion in the fall of 2008 and in 2009 and thereafter."
Brink had "no knowledge of the landfill as the landfill was buried in a valley, was capped, and had vegetation growing on it. It was not visible on inspection."
Not only is it impossible to construct anything on the landfill cover but it straddles a corner of the property in such a manner that about 40 acres is unusable, leaving Brink with just 60 acres, not enough to support the envisioned project.
Brink also claims BCR's actions delayed subdivision of the property by the city, prevented Brink from obtaining financing and made it much less feasible than in 2005 due to the diminished volume of beetle-killed pine.
As a result, Brink is seeking from BCR costs for remediation and for 15 years of foregone profits.
The civil claim is the latest in a series of legal actions that have gone through the courts over the matter. BCR Properties has 21 days to file a response, according to the notice.