Nova Scotia

Northern Pulp wants province to loosen environmental conditions

Northern Pulp says plans to invest $200 million over five years in Pictou County are in jeopardy unless the province backs off requirements to reduce chemicals and odour in wastewater.

Company says it can't reduce chemicals and odour in wastewater to level required

The owner of Northern Pulp mill says plans to invest more than $200 million over the next five years in Pictou County are in jeopardy — unless the province changes the rules under which it operates.

Paper Excellence Canada, the mill's owner, is appealing many of the conditions in its operating permit.

"If you can't meet environmental regulations you can't have a business. You can't invest," says Bruce Chapman, Northern Pulp's general manager. "There are clauses in the industrial approval that are just not possible to meet."

The mill's biggest headache is what it will do with wastewater after 2020 when the province closes its Boat Harbour treatment facility. The company has a lease with the province to use the facility until 2030 and says it has no intention of building a new one before then.

The appeal says the province should pay 100 per cent of the cost if it's before 2030 because the government has an obligation to honour the lease.

"We're not here to shut the mill down. We're here to survive. We're here to grow. We're here to expand the business. Currently we have industrial approval that jeopardizes that," said Chapman.

The company's first meetings with the provincial government on Boat Harbour begin next week.

Meanwhile, Northern Pulp is installing a $22-million precipitator, which was designed to meet the province's new cleaner standard. But now the company wants that allowable limit raised in case the pollution gear doesn't work well with the old boiler.

"It was designed to meet under certain conditions; the unknown is marrying a new precipitator to an old boiler," says Chapman.

Work should be completed in another month.

The company is also being told to reduce a measure known as C.O.D.: an indicator of the amount of pulping chemicals present in wastewater, which are largely responsible for the stinky odour. 

Chapman says there are plans in the capital plan to improve effluent but at this point, they can't change their process to reduce chemicals in the water by the 77 per cent as required under its licence.

Northern Pulp says only one mill in the country could meet new environmental conditions reducing chemicals and odour in wastewater, a safeguard not required by federal regulations.

"It's always difficult but there are many things on the water side that other mills in Canada that are not regulated to and are just not possible to meet in this mill."

Of 16 Canadian mills that voluntarily report chemical levels in wastewater, Northern Pulp ranks near the bottom. On another front, the mill is appealing the limit the province has set on particulate matter affecting air quality.

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