Proposed Northern Pulp pipe route into ocean hits snag

Northern Pulp says recent sonar imaging shows the proposed route of the pipe and its outfall position will have to change due to a shipwreck in the area.

'We told them that the waters in the area were too shallow,' says fisheries association

Northern Pulp's proposed route for the effluent pipe was supposed to go from a new effluent treatment facility at Abercrombie Point into the Strait. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Northern Pulp's plan to put a new effluent pipe into the Northumberland Strait has hit a snag.

The company says recent sonar imaging shows the proposed route of the pipe and its outfall position will have to change due to a shipwreck in the area.

"This is a shipwreck that was actually found in July 2015," said Kathy Cloutier, corporate communications director at Paper Excellence, the company that owns the Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie.

A team of divers in Pictou Harbour came across an intact shipwreck in July 2015, believed to be decades old. (John Tapper)

New data is providing more accurate measurements of the underwater structure, she said. "We will have to stay as far away from that as possible and sonar also found a collapsed pier and a shoal."

The extensive sonar testing was part of an assessment the company has been undertaking over the last three months.

Spokeswoman Kathy Cloutier says the proposed route for the effluent pipe will have to be changed because of obstacles such as a shipwreck, collapsed pier and a shoal. (CBC)

The planned route for the treated effluent pipe was supposed to go from a new effluent treatment facility at Abercrombie Point into the Strait.

Gathering the images was needed in order for the company to prepare its complex engineering plan for the line.

"You enter into this kind of project hoping for the least amount of obstacles, but when you are faced with them, you deal with them and that's really where we are at right now," said Cloutier.

Fishermen in the area don't want to see any effluent pipes in the Strait.

"We have told Northern Pulp all along their plan would not work," said Ronnie Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen's Association.

"We told them that the waters in the area were too shallow and Northern Pulp needs to find a new solution."

The province has promised to close the Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility in Pictou County by January 2020. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Jill Graham-Scanlan, president of Friends of the Northumberland Strait ,agrees.

She says the NOPIPE Land and Sea Rally planned for Friday is now more important than ever.

"Friday's rally will be a time to make clear that many eyes are watching Northern Pulp and the provincial government and that people are not prepared to risk the fisheries or the clean waters of the Strait," said Graham-Scanlon.

The rally in Pictou is expected to draw large numbers of fishing boats and pleasure boats and concerned citizens from all three Maritime provinces.

Friends of the Northumberland Strait is also calling on Northern Pulp to make their new plans public immediately.

Cloutier says they are continuing to do further testing but due to the latest findings an environmental assessment they planned to file this month will likely be pushed back to the fall.

Fishermen in the Northumberland Strait don't want to see any effluent pipes coming into the area. (CBC)

Northern Pulp has been ordered by the province to close the existing Boat Harbour Treatment Facility by the end of January 2020.

"We have always said the timeline established by the government was tight," said Cloutier. "Any impact to our schedule certainly makes things more challenging."

Changing the plan on a location for the outfall pipe could add significant cost to the project if the company is required to do more work during the winter months.

For 50 years, pulp mill waste water — from several mill owners — has been piped under the East River into the Boat Harbour lagoon. From there, it is aerated in settling ponds before being released about a week later into the Northumberland Strait.