Nova Scotia

Here's what the N.S. government wants from Northern Pulp's treatment proposal

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller and her department have outlined the information required from Northern Pulp before the company’s proposed effluent treatment plant could be considered for approval.

Company has a year to complete the work, but Boat Harbour Act deadline looms

Clouds are emitted from a pulp mill.
The province's Environment Department released the terms of reference on Tuesday for a focus report Northern Pulp must complete. (The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller and her department have outlined the information required from Northern Pulp before the company's proposed effluent treatment plant could be considered for approval.

Miller ruled last month the company's effort for an environmental assessment fell short of providing enough information for her to render a decision on the project. On Tuesday, the department released the terms of reference for the focus report Miller ordered on March 29.

While the minister outlined concerns a month ago, the new document contains more detail of what's required from the company.

Officials with the Pictou County-based mill must provide a new route for the pipeline that will run from the mill to the Northumberland Strait so it is no longer located next to Highway 106. Surveys must be provided confirming the viability of the marine portion of the pipeline and information must be provided about pipeline leak-detection technology, inspection and enhanced protection.

Work still to be done

The government is also calling for the complete physical and chemical characteristics of raw wastewater and expected effluent following treatment by the proposed technology.

Other requirements include:

  • Explaining why peak effluent temperature is proposed to be above the generally accepted range.
  • Effluent flow data to support proposed peak treatment capacity.
  • Information to assess the size and appropriateness of the spill basin design.
  • Baseline studies for the marine environment near the outfall location, wetlands along the proposed new pipeline route and all fish habitat.
  • Answering questions from Environment and Climate Change Canada related to a receiving water study.

In an emailed statement, Kathy Cloutier, spokesperson for mill owner Paper Excellence Canada, said they'd just received the terms of reference.

"Over the coming week, Northern Pulp will review the details to determine timelines and other associated factors related to the additional information request," she wrote.

Boat Harbour is legislated to close as a treatment lagoon for the Northern Pulp mill on Jan. 31, 2020. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Last month's decision put to rest any remaining questions about the company's ability to comply with the timelines in the Boat Harbour Act, the legislation passed in 2015 that calls for the closure of Boat Harbour as the company's treatment lagoon on Jan. 31, 2020.

At the time of Miller's decision last month, the CEO of Paper Excellence Canada said the delay meant it would take at least until the summer of 2021 to complete construction work. The company has repeatedly called for an extension of the Boat Harbour Act, and said without one the mill would be forced to shut down.

Premier Stephen McNeil has repeatedly said an extension would not be considered without full community support. Members of Pictou Landing First Nation, led by Chief Andrea Paul, have been unwavering that they would not support an extension.

Timeline for focus report process

The focus report terms of reference make clear an expectation of public dialogue throughout the process.

"During the preparation of the focus report, it is strongly recommended that [Northern Pulp] continues to engage with relevant stakeholders and the Mi'kmaq including Pictou Landing First Nation, and to share relevant studies and reports."

The company has one year to submit the focus report, which would then be followed by a 30-day public consultation. The department has 25 days from the end of the public consultation period to provide a recommendation to the minister, including approving the project, rejecting it or requiring more information.


Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at