P.E.I. Fishermen's Association hopes N.S. rejects Northern Pulp effluent plan

With Nova Scotia's environment minister poised to make an announcement about Northern Pulp's proposed effluent treatment plan, the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is hopeful he will reject the plan to pipe treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait.

'We still have huge concerns about this whole project'

Northern Pulp’s future is uncertain as the mill's owners wait for Nova Scotia's environment minister to review their proposal for a new effluent treatment plan. (Jill English/CBC)

The federal government's decision not to carry out an environmental assessment on the Northern Pulp mill is a "setback," says the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association. 

Now the final word on the mill's future is in the hands of Nova Scotia Environment Minister Gordon Wilson. He's scheduled to release his environmental assessment decision on the Pictou County pulp mill's controversial plan for a new effluent treatment facility at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

"We felt that federal government would slow down the process, make sure there would be good science if the project did proceed, and give a substantial comfort level to people involved," said fishermen's association executive director Ian MacPherson. "We felt that federal waters, there should have been federal involvement with the project.

"This is a bit of a setback but at the end of the day the group … is just as passionate that this project can only proceed if things are done properly." 

P.E.I. fishermen along with environmental, tourism and Indigenous groups have expressed concern about Northern Pulp's plan to pipe effluent into the Northumberland Strait shared by Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick. They say potential unknowns when it comes to the marine ecosystem, along with closing a painful chapter of environmental racism, trump everything else at this point.

However if Nova Scotia turns down the application for Northern Pulp's plan, it could mean the end of the mill and the thousands of jobs connected to it. Nova Scotia passed the Boat Harbour Act five years ago and it mandates that the mill no longer use the former tidal estuary to treat its effluent after Jan. 31, 2020.

'Huge concerns'

Now fishermen and others are eagerly awaiting Tuesday's announcement, MacPherson said. 

Fishermen and other groups have opposed the Northern Pulp effluent plan. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

What does he hope to hear?

"Ideally, that the project won't proceed and the province does has the ability to ask the federal government to intervene — so that would be I guess a positive development if that happened."

If the project were to proceed, MacPherson said fishermen want to see "very stringent conditions in place." 

If Northern Pulp is granted an extension to closing Boat Harbour, MacPherson said that will create "a whole different set of disappointments." 

"We still have huge concerns about this whole project and will continue to express those concerns."

More P.E.I. news

With files form Isabella Zavarise


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