P.E.I. politicians call on N.S. counterparts to hear concerns about Northern Pulp

Members of legislative committee on P.E.I. plan to write to their Nova Scotia counterparts asking them to hear concerns being raised about the Northern Pulp project in Pictou, N.S.

PEIFA unhappy about plan to discharge about 70 million litres of treated effluent daily

Ian MacPherson, centre, appeared before the standing committee along with marine biologist Melanie Giffin and PEIFA president Bobby Jenkins. (CBC)

Members of a legislative committee on P.E.I. will be sending a letter to their Nova Scotia counterparts asking them to hear concerns being raised about the Northern Pulp project in Pictou, N.S.

Representatives from the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association appeared Friday before the standing committee on agriculture and fisheries, giving MLAs an update on the project.

The association has been raising concerns about Northern Pulp's plan to put an effluent pipe into the Northumberland Strait. 

The pipe would discharge about 70 million litres of treated effluent a day directly into the strait, across from eastern P.E.I. 

Hal Perry says his committee will send a letter to their equivalent in Nova Scotia, asking them to hear concerns being raised by the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

After hearing the concerns, the Island MLAs agreed unanimously to reach out to politicians in Nova Scotia.

"This could make a huge impact not only on the economy, but on the environment," said Hal Perry, MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road and the committee chair.

"Especially on our fishing industry which is one of our main industries on P.E.I. so it's very, very important that we are proactive on this and that our concerns are not only heard but addressed."

Fisheries concerns

Company officials from Northern Pulp also appeared before the standing committee in February, but MLAs have now invited them back.

Hundreds of people gathered at the waterfront in Pictou, N.S., in July to protest the Northern Pulp effluent pipe plan. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

"Since then, new questions have come up so we feel it's very important to have them back in again," Perry said.

"So they can answer the questions that we are concerned about and that are very important to our industry here on Prince Edward Island."

At the committee hearing, a marine biologist with the PEIFA also outlined some of the species that could potentially be affected by contaminants from the effluent, including lobster larvae and herring.

Company calls meeting

Meanwhile, the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association and other members of a working group opposing the project have been invited to meet with Northern Pulp on Monday.

The Northern Pulp mill in Pictou will discharge about 70 million litres of treated effluent a day directly into the Northumberland Strait. (CBC)

"There has been a meeting scheduled for Monday morning and we're anxious to hear if there are some new proposals on the table," said Ian MacPherson, executive director of the PEIFA.

"We'd like to hear that there's another technical option being looked at and that there will be no pipe in the strait." 

MacPherson said he's pleased P.E.I. politicians are taking the step of writing to their counterparts.

"We've had zero traction in meeting with people from the Nova Scotia government so we're hoping this will help us open a dialogue with them," MacPherson said.

'Very scientific'

Earlier this week, the association did meet with two senior officials from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, making a presentation similar to the one it gave to the standing committee.

MacPherson says the PEIFA has spent "hundreds of hours" on the file already and will continue to oppose the proposed pipe into the Northumberland Strait. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"We presented this document, very scientific in nature," MacPherson said. "We were able to drill down our specific concerns on a scientific basis."

MacPherson is hoping the agency will recommend a federal assessment, rather than a provincial one.

"We want to hear that it's a federal environmental process — that will buy us some time and then we'll plan our strategy from there," MacPherson said.

"But I want to reiterate that if a federal assessment is granted, it does not mean we support the project. We're not going away with our opposition to the project."

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Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.