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Ridding B.C. island of contaminants costs company $4.75 million: judge

VANCOUVER – Contaminating a B.C. island with chemicals used to manufacture explosives has cost a supplier of paints and coatings $4.75 million.

James Island is located off the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, and at various times between 1913 and 1985 it was home to the manufacturing and storage of explosives like TNT, black powder, nitroglycerin and products used in fertilizers and fuels.

The island was owned by ICI Canada Inc., which recently changed its name to PPG Architectural Coatings Canada Inc., until 1988, except for about five years in the 1970s.

The island’s new owner, J.I. Properties Inc., purchased it in August 1994 but took the coatings’ company to court, arguing it had spent more than $5.2 million cleaning up soil contaminated by explosives, cyanide, metals and petroleum hydrocarbons.

Justice Nigel Kent says that under B.C. law the “polluter pays” principle imposes an absolute liability on any person who causes a site to be contaminated.

He says it’s fair and just to require the coatings’ company to reimburse the new owner for reasonably incurred remediation costs and set the bill at $4.75 million.