Northern Pulp fined $225K for 'toxic' pulp mill effluent leak
Mill pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge under the Federal Fisheries Act
Northern Pulp has been fined $225,000 by a Pictou provincial court judge for the June 2014 leak of 47 millions of litres of "toxic" pulp mill effluent.
The pulp mill pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single charge under the Federal Fisheries Act. A 36-inch pipe carrying effluent from the mill — at Abercrombie Point — to treatment lagoons at Boat Harbour ruptured at Pictou Landing.
The mill waste spilled into a wetland and eventually into Boat Harbour.
Provincial court judge Del Atwood accepted a joint recommendation for the fine from the Crown and the company, but said he needed more time to decide how to disburse the fine.
The lawyers had agreed to the fine being split three ways: $75,000 to the Mi'kmaq Conservation Group in Pictou County, $75,000 to the Pictou County Rivers Association and $75,000 to be disbursed to eligible recipients affected in the area, including the Pictou Landing First Nation.
Atwood said he needed time to consider whether the final $75,000 could be unallocated.
'Puts the message out there'
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul is pleased with the amount of the fine. She says that another pipeline rupture in 2008 did not result in authorities laying any charges.
"For the federal environment [department] to come forward and actually put forward a serious charge puts the message out there we have to protect the environment, we have to protect fish habitat," she said.
Kathy Cloutier, a spokesperson for the Northern Pulp mill, said the fine will bring closure.
"This brings to a close for the company an unfortunate occurrence," she said.
The Crown and company agreed to the fine and an agreed statement of facts. Federal lawyer Paul Adams told Atwood the company had allowed the pipeline to "reach an advanced state of deterioration" leading to the leak of "toxic effluent."
"It had not been properly maintained and that led directly to the effects. There is a significant degree of blameworthiness attached to the offence," Adams told the court.
Northern Pulp lawyer Harvey Morrison told the court the company spent $400,000 on repairs and environmental activities and analysis.
Morrison said there was no evidence of substantial potential harm because of the leak.
"While acutely toxic, immediately the toxicity rapidly diminished," Morrison said.
According to the agreed statement of facts, samples taken at the site showed the effluent was "acutely toxic" to fish.
The incident had far-reaching impacts beyond the court case. After the leak, the nearby Pictou Landing First Nation blockaded the cleanup site and demanded the closure of the mill's decades-old treatment facility that discharges into band property.
The province's Liberal government has promised to close the treatment facility, which it owns, by 2020. It has committed $50 million toward the shutdown and cleanup.
The actual costs have not been determined — nor how the job will be carried out.
The mill has yet to determine how and where it will treat the 90 million litres of effluent produced by the mill each day.