Premier reaffirms no new effluent will enter Boat Harbour after January
Pictou Landing concerned treatment site won't completely close until April
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul is expressing concern that although Boat Harbour will stop receiving effluent from Northern Pulp at the end of January, it will still be several months before the former tidal estuary is completely closed to all materials from the mill.
Paul issued a news release Tuesday saying she has not agreed to allow the Pictou County, N.S., treatment facility to continue to be used after Jan. 31. She takes particular issue with the company's plan to run its power boiler to provide heat at the site while winterizing the mill, a move that would mean water would flow through the system and into Boat Harbour as late as April.
"We were not consulted about it," Paul said in the news release. She could not be reached for an interview.
In her release, Paul said the community is disappointed.
"We were expecting a complete shutdown of the Boat Harbour treatment facility," she said. "Northern Pulp could have started draining the pipes weeks ago in order to complete the work before Jan. 31 and avoid the need to heat the mill after that."
Last month, Premier Stephen McNeil rejected calls from the mill to extend the legislated deadline for the company's use of Boat Harbour to treat its effluent.
On Tuesday, McNeil said the government is dealing with the situation as it exists, while continuing to keep the promise enshrined in the Boat Harbour Act.
"There will be no new effluent going into Boat Harbour as of the 31st of January. Our commitment has been met to [the Pictou Landing First Nation] and we'll continue to work with them," he said.
"Here's where we are," McNeil added. "The reality of it is, we also have an issue and that's that pipe. So we couldn't do anything with the pipe until [Jan. 31]."
Running water through the boiler means the pipe connecting the mill to Boat Harbour, which the province owns and is responsible for, will be flushed and cleaned, allowing it to be disconnected and permanently removed by the end of April, said McNeil.
In the meantime, he's expecting a detailed plan from the company within the week about how they will deal with other issues on the mill site, such as leachate and the capping of manhole covers on the property that receive runoff water, which flows into Boat Harbour.
Industry members watch and wait
As those details continue to be worked out, people who work in the woods and other industries connected to the forestry are on watch for what all of it means for them.
The province's forestry transition team has made several funding announcements to assist with silviculture work and retraining, but removing the industry's largest player all but guarantees some operators won't be able to remain viable for the long term. Already, companies from other provinces are advertising job fairs.
Josh Molnar operates Molnar Welding in Lantz, N.S., a fabrication and repair shop that specializes in work for sawmills, and employs 25 people. They've been in business for about 45 years.
Molnar, the third generation of his family to run the business, said he's watching closely to see what happens with sawmills around the province. If they reach the point where they have nowhere to send chips, it will have a direct effect on his own business.
He's hoping that new markets for those chips come about quickly, such as for district heating or biomass for electricity.
As much as some people in the industry would like to see Northern Pulp keep operating, Molnar said the immediate focus right now must be on finding new markets and ways to keep the sector viable.
"[Sawmills] need time, they need a solution to get rid of their products so that they can invest for the future," he said.
It would also mean a future for the 25 people at Molnar Welding and other businesses like them.
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