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Sorry About The Explosives On Your Land, Here's 11 Million Dollars

Canada is paying out millions of dollars to a developer due to some leftover WWII-era mortars.

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The land South of Vernon, British Columbia that borders the Okanagan, Swan and Kalamalka lakes is truly a sight to behold. It would be the perfect spot to build a home, or play a round of golf, as long as you don't get blown up in the process.

Matthew Grapengieser / Via Flickr: 33237881@N08

The developer K & L Land Partnership purchased 1,350 acres of land in the area from a farmer in 2005. The plan was to build a residential development.

Then they discovered the area may be littered with unexploded mortars from when it was used as a training site for the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II.

BuzzFeed Canada has learned that after years of talks and two years of litigation, the federal government will pay K & L $11 million as part of a confidential settlement, and has agreed to fully clear the land of explosives.

For years in the 1940s the military used the land to fire off explosives — mostly mortars — some of which didn't actually explode.

These never got cleaned up. The surrounding communities were warned at the time, but eventually that knowledge faded.

In the following decades at least nine people were killed or wounded when they came across explosive devices on the land and tried to take them as souvenirs. The most recent case was in 1973. No one knows how many unexploded devices are left on the land.

When K & L purchased the land, they had no idea about the land's deadly history.

"It's a spectacular piece of land," said Fitterman Stephen Fitterman of Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP, which represented K & L.

Hamid Khatib / Reuters

It's also a valuable piece. The plot is surrounded by residential developments and to the south is a luxury golf course.

Unfortunately, K & L was finding it tough sell to convince people to buy homes on land that had the chance of being a minefield.

Informal attempts to strike a deal on the cleanup failed, and eventually K & L sued. Earlier this year a deal was reached, and Fitterman described the process positive and cooperative.

Public accounts documents show Ottawa made an $11 million payment to K & L earlier this year.

As part of the settlement the government must also clear the land of all unexploded devices so that it can be used for development, said Fitterman. That work is already being done.

But the problem of unexploded mortars isn't going away any time soon, as military training was done all across the country. In 2013 a bomb was even found underwater in nearby Kalamalka lake. Between 2005 and 2013 the government spent $70 million to clean up old munitions from hundreds of sites across the country.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at paul.mcleod@buzzfeed.com.

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