Govt could sue over contamination

City authorities and the owners of a restaurant could be sued by federal authorities because of contamination on the hotel site.

According to reports from British Columbia, in Canada, the federal Attorney General's office has filed a writ of summons against the City of Victoria and Paul's Restaurants Ltd, owners of the Laurel Point Inn in Victoria.

The writ says contamination from the hotel and park properties "has been and continues to be caused by the activities, operations and omissions of the defendants", the Victoria News has reported.

It added that the federal government "has and continues to suffer loss or damage, including harm and damage to the environment and natural resources".

The government may claim unspecified costs to cover the investigation, assessment and remediation of the land.

However, the writ has not been accompanied by a statement of claim - the document needed to officially start legal action.

Reacting to news of the writ, Rob Woodland, Victoria's director of legislative services, told the paper that the city had been in talks with the federal government since the late 1990s about contamination at the site - which was home to a paint factory until the hotel was built in the 1970s - but there had been no active discussions in recent years.

He admitted that city authorities were surprised at the federal government's actions. He told the paper: "I think the city's position some years ago was there wasn't any clear evidence of contaminants moving off the site."

He added: "The frustrating part for the city, and I think for the Laurel Point Inn, is that this is a situation created by a company that's no longer in business."

In a statement, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's office said the contaminated material was well below ground surface and did not pose an immediate threat to the environment or local people.

Kate Martin



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