Northern Pulp Mill haze worries Pictou County doctor
Environment minister says no imminent threat to human health
A doctor in Pictou County, N.S., is speaking out about his health concerns for residents near the Northern Pulp Mill.
The haze from the mill in Abercrombie Point has a sulphur-like smell and drifts across the town. Locals report the smog gets into their clothes, homes, cars and lungs.
The medical director of palliative care in Pictou County, Dr. Gerry Farrell, says he wouldn't be sad to see the pulp mill shut down.
"I'm really sick and tired of having to live with this and I think most people are getting totally fed up,” he said.
“I do feel bad for the who work there from the point of view that there might be job losses if it closes, but I think the government has a real duty to do things for the common good and not just a few people.”
The last test for particulate levels at the pulp mill was done eight months ago.
It showed levels 78 per cent above what's allowed.
There hasn't been a test since.
Earlier this week, Environment Minister Randy Delorey told CBC there isn't an imminent threat to human health.
He says he has no intention of forcing it to shut down despite public complaints about the emissions coming from the mill.
That doesn’t sit well with Farrell.
“I think he should come live here for a while and experience it and you know, there's no way that this cannot be a health risk."
Independent samples submitted
Chemist Ian Fraser wondered what was in the pulp mill's haze. He collected soil samples from Boat Harbour in June and submitted them as a blind sample.
“I didn't wanted to have any biases associated with the samples,” he said. “The results are independent.”
The former manager of laboratory services for the federal Department of Labour says the soil showed traces of cadmium, chromium and nickel. He says three samples showed a small amount of mercury.
Fraser said the results aren’t overly shocking, but the metals could continue to leach into the soil
“That is a long term issue if it’s not rectified,” he said.
Movement to clean up the mill grows by the day.
For the past couple of years Wendy Kearley hasn’t been able to step outside without her respirator.
She blames the pollution pouring out of Northern Pulp.
"I have an asthma attack. It's like breathing water. You choke and sputter and I have to wear [a mask] at all times."
She’s one of the 900 people who have signed a petition to do something about the mill and its stench.
The Clean Pictou Air group is gathering on the New Glasgow riverfront this weekend for the Riverfront Jubilee music festival and hopes to gather at least a thousand more signatures.
"The petition is to have the mill cleaned up or closed down. And it's really sad that we have to go to this extent with a legal document in order to force our government to keep us safe,” she said.
The provincial Department of Health declined CBC’s request for an interview.
The province has given the mill $111 million in loans since 2009.