Nova Scotia

Province expects Northern Pulp to follow latest order, despite company's concerns

Northern Pulp says a new ministerial order shows the Nova Scotia government lacks understanding of pulp mills. The environment minister says they need to get on with their work.

Company says order is 'impractical' and shows 'a lack of understanding of the pulp and paper industry'

The Northern Pulp mill, before its operations shut down at the end of January. Mill officials have taken issue with a new ministerial order from the Nova Scotia Environment Department. (Jill English/CBC)

Nova Scotia's environment minister says that regardless of any concerns Northern Pulp has with an order he recently issued, he expects the company to abide by the terms as outlined in the document.

Last week, Gordon Wilson issued an order updating one he issued in January, that states what Northern Pulp must do as it decommissions and cleans up its site in Pictou County.

On Wednesday, the company responded with a statement saying Wilson's directive imposes terms and conditions "that are impractical and show a lack of understanding of the pulp and paper industry and effluent treatment facilities."

In particular, company officials say the inability to discharge "even clean, fresh water" into Boat Harbour, the mill's former effluent treatment facility, would probably cause septicity and create odour emissions. The statement said that point was made back in January.

"It's quite simple: without sufficient aeration and water, the site will generate odour," spokesperson Graham Kissack writes in the statement.

The company also takes issue with the requirement for the mill to meet compliance limits on the water leaving Boat Harbour and moving into the Northumberland Strait.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson says his latest ministerial order will protect the environment and that Northern Pulp needs to get on with the work of satisfying the order. (CBC)

"Today, now that Northern Pulp is not operating, the vast majority of water entering Boat Harbour and subsequently being discharged is unrelated to the mill," Kissack said in the statement.

He did not respond to a request for an interview.

On Thursday, Wilson told reporters that he believes the terms of his latest order will address environmental concerns and he expects the company to meet the various timeline and work requirements.

"Let's be clear: the responsibility for maintaining these [settling] ponds was not only clearly laid out in this ministerial order, but it was also clearly laid out in the ministerial order that came out in January," he said.

Wilson said he has "all the confidence" in the work people in his department have done in establishing the terms of the ministerial order.

"It's important for that work to get done and it's important that the company needs to focus on getting that work done."

Boat Harbour Act

The Boat Harbour Act mandated that Northern Pulp stop using the former tidal estuary to treat its effluent by the end of January. It has not been able to operate since then after failing to secure approval to build a new effluent treatment facility.

Premier Stephen McNeil said on Thursday that he's heard from people in Pictou Landing and the surrounding area about improved air quality since then and he expects it to stay that way.

"We're very confident that we can continue to protect the quality of the air and we will work with the community and the company," he said.

"The company is going to have to make a decision, though. Does it want to follow the process to see if it can get an [environmental assessment approval] in this province or not? And that's a choice that they will make and we expect them to follow the orders that are put out by the Department of Environment."

Kissack said the company continues to review the environmental assessment terms of reference "to determine if it provides a workable path forward."