Northern Pulp emissions don't pose imminent threat, says Leo Glavine
Chemical results of the upcoming stack test in August could be held from the public
The effects of emissions coming from the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County are anecdotal and there's no evidence of an immediate threat, the provincial Minister of Health and Wellness said Thursday.
"We only have anecdotal information," Leo Glavine told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.
"We have nothing really substantial from the scientific community or medical community to indicate that we have a problem that needs to be addressed right at this moment."
People in Pictou have voiced strong concerns about the sulphur-like smelly haze drifting around town and the risk they feel the pollution poses to their health.
Glavine said the Department of Health and Wellness could find no evidence that people in Pictou County have a higher incidence of lung cancer or asthma.
However, he agreed the mill poses a long-term threat to health and tests that will be conducted on Aug. 18 could quantify that risk.
The last stack test done at the Abercrombie Point mill in November showed the particulate that creates the smog measured 78 per cent above the legal limit.
The mill will have two months to give the province the results of the test. However, privacy legislation may give the company the option to keep that information confidential.
On Thursday, Environment Minister Randy Delorey said Freedom of Information laws that allow businesses to restrict disclosure may also prevent the government from sharing those test results with the public. He cited possible "commercial restrictions" when asked under what circumstances he would decline to release the results.
Delorey said he wants Northern Pulp to speed up the delivery of the test results.
"To get them to our department as soon as possible so we can have the new information that we need to evaluate our options and make decisions accordingly," he said.
Delorey said there is no fixed level at which the province would force the mill to shut down.
Opposition leader Jamie Baillie, who had a meeting with the Clean Pictou Air group on Thursday, also called for action.
"It's time to put some pressure on the company to clean up now," he said. "To wait until June of next spring is not right."
The Northern Pulp mill is in the process of ordering pollution control equipment that will reduce emissions that are currently well above the allowable limit.
The pollution control precipitator on the mill has had several upgrades since it was installed in 1967. Company officials have said it will likely be May before new equipment is installed.