Nova Scotia

Minister vows Northern Pulp won't get reprieve on mill effluent deadline

Nova Scotia's lands and forestry minister is not sympathetic to an admission by Northern Pulp that it will likely miss a government-imposed deadline to have a fully operational effluent treatment system in place by January 2020.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says MLAs will honour the Boat Harbour Act

Minister Iain Rankin says MLAs will honour the Boat Harbour Act. (Robert Short/CBC News)

Nova Scotia's lands and forestry minister is not sympathetic to an admission by Northern Pulp that it will likely miss a government-imposed deadline to have a fully operational effluent treatment system in place at its Pictou County paper mill.

Minister Iain Rankin said the company had "ample notice" when the provincial legislature unanimously passed a law in 2015 to close the current effluent treatment system at Boat Harbour by the end of January 2020.

"The company has been aware for some time we had passed the Boat Harbour Act ... We fully expect them to meet that commitment if they wish to continue operating in Nova Scotia," Rankin said Wednesday.

The treatment and release of an estimated 70 million litres of effluent each day is key to the mill's continued operation. It has prompted protests and blockades from fishermen who object to the discharge of treated effluent anywhere in the Northumberland Strait.

Pipeline delays

An executive with Northern Pulp's parent company, Paper Excellence, told CBC News a new effluent treatment system for its mill in Pictou County will be ready on time, but the pipeline to discharge 70 million litres daily of treated effluent likely will not.

"We are at risk of missing the timelines by a few months," said Jean Francois Guillot, Paper Excellence's vice-president of operations. 

Two boats joined a rally in July against a plan by Northern Pulp, shown in the background, to put an effluent pipe into the Northumberland Strait. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Fishermen and environmental organizations have responded with scorn, saying the prediction the company will miss the deadline by a few months is "wildly optimistic."

In a release, the Northumberland Fishermen's Association claimed required reports and testing have not been completed.

"It is the position of our working group, representing over 3,000 fishermen from Nova Scotia, Pictou Landing First Nation, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, that Boat Harbour must close on schedule. All parties in the N.S. legislature voted in favour of the Boat Harbour Act in 2015. We call on all parties to honour that act now," said Allan McCarthy of the association.

"If you think tensions are high now, you don't want to think about what could happen if MLAs do not honour the Boat Harbour Act."

Rankin said it will be honoured.

"This government intends to keep our commitments," he said.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.