Nova Scotia

Paper Excellence shares Northern Pulp plans at Pictou council meeting

The company hoping to restart the Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., presented its plans to the town council in nearby Pictou Monday night.

Mayor says there's 'very little trust' between residents and pulp company

The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., is viewed from Pictou, N.S., Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Paper Excellence says it would reduce the smoke plumes under its proposed plans. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The company hoping to restart the Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., presented its plans to the town council in nearby Pictou Monday night. 

During the two-hour meeting, Paper Excellence's Dale Paterson and Graham Kissak said the proposed new methods of operating the plant would reduce the smell by 80 per cent so that under "normal operating conditions," locals wouldn't detect it. 

Paper Excellence owns Northern Pulp, which was forced to close in 2020 when it failed to get approval for an effluent treatment facility to replace the use of Boat Harbour. The former tidal estuary was legislated to be closed to effluent by the Boat Harbour Act.

Paterson and Kissak told councillors the plan was to spend this year talking to the community. Next year, they hope to finalize their plan for the upgrades and a new effluent treatment facility. They hope the province gives them environmental approval in 2023, which would let them start building that year.

Coun. Melinda MacKenzie asked what they've done to build trust with Pictou Landing First Nation, which has had to live with the waste pumped into Boat Harbour. 

"What reparations have been made for those community members to believe that this mill, aside from the optics in the presentation, is going to be any different than the previous one?" MacKenzie asked. 

Kissak said they'd had a few general conversations with the First Nation, but "99 per cent of that work is still in front of us."

Town 'sceptical' of plans

Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan attended the meeting and spoke to CBC's Information Morning Tuesday. 

"They're talking about 75 per cent [reduction] in power-boiler particulates, 70 per cent in visible stack plume, 50 per cent in chlorine dioxide emissions. Those are the kinds of numbers they're throwing out there," Ryan said.  

But Ryan said the presentation didn't include any details about what would be in the wastewater and smoke, or where in Pictou Harbour they planned to release the wastewater. 

"My personal opinion is that it is unacceptable," Ryan said. "I think there's a certain amount of scepticism here in the town whether or not they're able to reach the targets they're presenting.

"Even if they can reach the targets, is any amount of effluent being pumped into the harbour acceptable to the people in the town of Pictou?"

Ryan recalled attending a 2017 presentation from the same company when the topic of dumping the wastewater into Pictou harbour came up.

"At that time they said that the flushing action of the harbour was not strong enough to defuse the effluent as it should. Now all of a sudden I guess it's better," he said. 

Ryan said the company has a history of overpromising and underdelivering. 

"They said we have to look to the future, not the past. Unfortunately, it's the past that creates your future sometimes," Ryan said. "Their past has done very little to create that trust for me, and for lots of people in the town of Pictou."

He said the last 18 months without the mill operating have given the area clean air and clean water, letting people enjoy the outdoors. 

"People in Pictou have experienced the nice clean air and seem pretty comfortable with it."