The Sunday Magazine

As Nova Scotia honours the Boat Harbour deadline, Northern Pulp confirms shutdown

Every day, tens of millions of litres of toxic effluent pour into Boat Harbour from Northern Pulp, a mill located across the water from Pictou. Successive governments have attempted — and failed — to clean up Nova Scotia's most contaminated site. Now, a deadline looms. The company has been ordered to stop the effluent flow into Boat Harbour by January 31, 2020. David Gutnick reports from Pictou in his documentary, "Every Problem Has Eight Sides."
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is honouring his commitment to Pictou Landing First Nation and forcing Northern Pulp to stop pumping effluent into Boat Harbour by Jan 31. (Jill English/CBC)

It swallowed up the energy of twelve Nova Scotia premiers from three parties. It burned up the lives of at least two generations of environmental activists. It carved a hole in the heart of a tiny First Nations community. And don't even ask what it's done to the water, the lobsters and the fish.

This week — once again — all eyes were on Boat Harbour.

Boat Harbour is Nova Scotia's largest contaminated site. It consists of 142 hectares of ponds, basins and coves that receive tens of millions of litres of treated effluent every day. It all comes from Northern Pulp.

And on Friday, Stephen McNeil, the Premier of Nova Scotia, made what may turn out to be the defining decision of his time in office.

He decided to stick with the Boat Harbour Act, which means that the Northern Pulp mill, that sits on Abercrombie Point just across the water from the historic town of Pictou, must cease sending effluent from the plant into the waters of Boat Harbour as of January 31, 2020.

Following the Premier's announcement, Northern Pulp management announced that the plant will shut down. Workers were given severance notices.

Critics of the mill, fishermen, and members of the Pictou First Landing First Nation were elated with the news that the plant will close.

Union officials were furious and said that hundreds of plant workers and thousands of forestry industry workers would lose their livelihoods.

Last spring David Gutnick reported from Pictou in his documentary Every Problem Has Eight Sides

Click "listen," above, to hear the documentary.

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