New Brunswick

Atholville residents upset about black, cloudy water in Restigouche River

A video of murky water in the Restigouche River at Atholville posted online has stirred up concern, but the local mill's owners say everything is normal and there are no toxic discharges coming from the plant.

Atholville Mill says operations are normal, and refutes allegations swirling on social media

Video taken of what the Dept. of Environment calls a 'black plume' in the Restigouche River has created a lot of concern in the Atholville area. (CBC)

A video of murky water in the Restigouche River at Atholville posted online has stirred up concern, but the local mill's owners say everything is normal and there are no toxic discharges coming from the plant. 

The video has been shared over 2,000 times, and many are worried about what's being put in the river from the plant.

"I saw a black cloud of whatever chemicals coming from the plant and I was pretty distraught by it, so I took a video of it and I posted it," said Shawn Metallic.

He grew up in Listuguj, right across the river from the plant, but said he had never seen the water like that before.

Shawn Metallic, who grew up along the river, says he has never seen the water with that kind of black, murky look to it. (CBC)
"We fish the salmon here and we eat it," said Metallic.

"It's cause for concern for sure. Who wants to see that in our water, especially in our beautiful area like this?"

Atholville Mayor Michel Soucy said he had spoken to the mill operators, AV Group NB, and assured people there was nothing abnormal in what was seen in the video.

He said he was told it was residue from treatments that are done at the mill, and discolouration from the run-off was normal, depending on water level and temperature.

Tommy Larocque, who also lives across the river from the mill, said he took pictures similar to Metallic's three years ago.

"The river's all one colour and when you see from the shoreline it's black, there's gotta be something going on," said Larocque.

"It concerns me because there's salmon, Atlantic salmon in the river, and it's their spawning grounds way up river, and they have to swim through that sometime."

Environment Department will inspect

The Atholville Mill states it is operating normally and refutes allegations on social media that it has spilled chemicals into the river. (CBC)
The Department of Environment issued a statement Tuesday, which said its representatives were monitoring the situation, calling the discolouration "a black plume along the shoreline."

"Given the mill's close proximity to the plume, the department is focusing its efforts on ensuring that the mill is operating within the standards set out in its Approval to Operate issued by the department," according to the email sent to CBC News.

The email also stated, "In the coming days the department will inspect the mill's operations, including effluent samples and records."

Mill refutes allegations

AV Group NB Inc. issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon, responding to "recent allegations on social media."

The company said it "absolutely refutes the allegations of a chemical spill emanating from its Atholville mill.

Discharges from the Atholville mill are approved by the Department of Environment and meet all environmental standards.

The discharges are not toxic and are part of the normal operation of the effluent treatment at this mill."

"The comments recently posted to social media are false and misleading," the statement quoted Ashley Irvine, chief operating officer of the mill.

For now, it's still a hot topic of concern online. "It's just blown up," said Metallic.

"It's affecting everybody."

with files from Bridget Yard