PEI

P.E.I. fishermen, Indigenous groups pleased with Northern Pulp decision

P.E.I. fisheries and Indigenous rights organizations, and the province say they are pleased the Nova Scotia government has rejected a plan by Pictou's Northern Pulp plant to pipe treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

'There's still obviously that big elephant in the room, being Boat Harbour and the Boat Harbour closure'

The Northern Pulp mill creates and supplies pulp to make common household products such as tissue, paper towel and toilet paper as well as writing and photocopy paper. (The Canadian Press)

P.E.I. fisheries and Indigenous rights organizations, and the province say they are pleased the Nova Scotia government has rejected a plan by Pictou's Northern Pulp plant to pipe treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

Nova Scotia had until Tuesday to decide whether or not to approve Northern Pulp's proposal for a new treatment facility that would pump up to 85 million litres of treated effluent daily into the strait. On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia environment minister asked the mill to submit an environmental assessment report within two years. 

"We've pointed out a number of inaccuracies the last few years through this process, and as it turns out the minister agrees with those inaccuracies," said Melanie Giffin, a marine biologist and program planner with the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association. 

Giffin called the decision "positive" and said her organization hopes its concerns about the marine ecosystem in the Strait and how the mill's effluent may affect the multi-million dollar fishery for lobster, scallops and other fish, will now be addressed. 

'There's still obviously that big elephant in the room, being Boat Harbour and the Boat Harbour closure," Giffin said. Boat Harbour is the estuary where Northern Pulp currently pumps its treated effluent, and the Nova Scotia government ordered it shut down by January 2020. 

"We still support that closure," she said, noting the PEIFA is not against the mill itself.

'Continue to be strongly opposed'

P.E.I.s' provincial government is pleased with the decision for a new assessment of the plan, Premier Dennis King and Fisheries Minister Jamie Fox said in a written release Tuesday. 

"We commend the Nova Scotia environment minister for asking for more science-based information and welcome the caution expressed on this decision," King said in the release.

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association's Melanie Giffin watches the Nova Scotia government's announcement that it is seeking more information before it can approve Northern Pulp's plan. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"There are still many unanswered questions about the short- and long-term impacts on the Northumberland Strait ecosystem," Fox said in the release. 

In a written release Tuesday, P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaq leadership said it was "disheartened" the federal government would not do its own environmental assessment of the plant's plan.

"We are happy that this project will require an environmental assessment process," said Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard in the release. "As stewards of the environment, we're deeply concerned about the potential harm to the Northumberland Strait marine life this project could have created, lasting for generations." 

"We continue to be strongly opposed to this project," said Chief Junior Gould in the release. 

"The potential harm of the discharge into the Northumberland Strait could have devastating effects to both the cultural and economically significant fishing industry."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Steve Bruce

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