Northern Pulp: Peter MacKay says collaborative efforts are crucial

The head of the union representing workers at Pictou County’s Northern Pulp Mill says some people want to see the site shut down.

Pollution continues to be a problem at Pictou County site

In January 2011, the federal government announced it was giving the Northern Pulp $28 million under its Green Transformation Program to improve environmental performance at the pulp mill. (CBC)

In a statement released Thursday regarding the Northern Pulp Mill emissions, the MP for the area, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said he trusts the decision by Nova Scotia Minister of Environment Randy Delorey to not force the mill to shut down. 

MacKay said he shares the public's concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the mill. But he believes the provincial assessment that determined the mill's emissions pose no threat to human health is based on sounds research. 

"The responsibility to determine repercussions and regulations for emissions violations is that of the Provincial Government. I trust that the decision made yesterday by Nova Scotia Minister of Environment Randy Delorey, and his assessment that it poses no imminent health threat, as reported in various media outlets, were made with all the required research and diligence for a matter of this sensitivity and in accordance with the province’s environmental regulations," he said in the statement.

In 2011, the federal government announced it would send $28 million through the Green Transformation Initiative to improve Northern Pulp's environmental footprint.

In his statement, MacKay reminded owners of the plant to "use this public contribution to comply with all environmental regulations and licensing  requirements."

Shutting down the mill

The head of the union representing workers at Pictou County’s Northern Pulp Mill says some people want to see the site shut down.

Don MacKenzie is the president of Unifor 440, the union representing 220 workers at the plant.

“This plant is one of the few to have survived. There have been many that have not. The folks that are concerned about this ... we’re not sure what their goal is. We find it frustrating, sometimes, that their opinions, we believe, are based on not all correct information, or in some cases, maybe, they’ve been misinformed,” he said.

“I believe some of them want the plant shut down.”

No 'imminent threat to human health'

On Wednesday, Nova Scotia's Environment Minister said there's no question the mill in Abercrombie Point is malfunctioning, but he has no intention of forcing it to shut down despite public complaints about the emissions coming from the mill.

"To date the conclusions that [the Department of Health] made are that there isn't an imminent threat to human health," Randy Delorey said.

David MacKenzie, a spokesman for Northern Pulp, said the smell and particulate are caused by emissions that are getting through an old precipitator, which is a filtration device. He said the company is having logistical issues bringing in a new one.

They hope to have a new precipitator installed by May 2015.

The union’s Don MacKenzie said it would be difficult to temporarily close the mill, as experienced tradespeople would leave for work elsewhere.

“Certainly one of your most valuable assets is your employees and if you shut a plant down, you’re going to lose a lot of them,” he said.

“We in Pictou County have trouble now competing with the rates that are being paid to tradesmen out west, and certainly if there was even a short term shut down, this mill would lose a lot of their experienced tradesmen.”

He said everyone at the plant wants the best quality emissions possible.

Mayor says stench hurting town

Complaints from residents in Pictou, who have been pressing for action for a year, intensified this week after business leader Paul Sobey lashed out at the mill. He said the sulphur-like smell and particulate drift across the town, getting in people's clothes, homes and cars.

Joe Hawes, the mayor of Pictou, said the stench is hurting the town but he's absolutely against trying to have the mill closed.


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