Nova Scotia

Northern Pulp focus report now open to comments from public

Northern Pulp has filed its government-ordered focus report as the company continues to try to get approval to build a new effluent treatment facility at its Pictou County, N.S., site.

The report was posted online Thursday and the public will have until Nov. 8 to submit comments

Northern Pulp’s future is uncertain as the mill's owners wait for the province to review their proposal for a new effluent treatment plan. (Jill English/CBC)

Northern Pulp has filed its government-ordered focus report as the company continues to try to get approval to build a new effluent treatment facility at its Pictou County, N.S., site.

The company filed the report Wednesday, according to a Nova Scotia government news release. It was posted online Thursday and the public will have until Nov. 8, at 11:59 p.m. to submit comments.

At the end of that period, Environment Minister Gordon Wilson will make a decision on the company's proposed effluent treatment plant by Dec. 17.

Wilson said he plans to read everything the public submits.

"Not only is that a commitment that I'll make today, but I actually, in my first days coming on as minister, went through those 4,000 submissions in the previous consultation that we had," he told reporters at Province House.

"This is very important for me to hear what Nova Scotians have to say."

A rendering of the proposed wastewater treatment facility, submitted by Northern Pulp. (Submitted by Paper Excellence Canada)

In a news release, the company said its proposed site would "significantly reduce Northern Pulp's environmental footprint."

"Northern Pulp is committed to continuing to create well-paying jobs for Nova Scotians, support the region's economy, protect the environment, and enhance the wellbeing of our rural communities."

Deadline approaches

Wilson's predecessor, Margaret Miller, ordered the focus report in March after determining the company's initial application for an environmental approval lacked necessary information about subjects such as the project's potential effects on human and animal health and the environment.

All of this is happening against the backdrop of the Boat Harbour Act, legislation passed nearly five years ago by Premier Stephen McNeil's government that says the mill must stop pumping effluent into the former tidal estuary no later than Jan. 31, 2020.

Mill officials and members of the forestry industry have been lobbying hard to convince the government to extend the deadline. They say without more time to build a treatment facility the mill will be forced to shut down, something they predict will throw the forestry industry into a tailspin.

Members of Pictou Landing First Nation, fishermen's associations, environmentalists and others have called on the government to honour the date in the Boat Harbour Act.

Not only do they want Boat Harbour cleaned up as soon as possible, they are adamantly opposed to the mill's proposal to use a pipeline to move treated effluent from a new treatment site by the mill in Abercrombie Point to the Northumberland Strait.

McNeil, who has more recently backed away from a staunch position that the closure date is the closure date, has said any decisions by his government would be made based on fact and science after the company submits its proposal and the regulator makes a decision.

On Wednesday, McNeil told reporters his government does not have legislation drafted to change the Boat Harbour Act. 

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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