Northern Pulp submits new proposal to Nova Scotia Environment Department

·3 min read
The Northern Pulp mill in 2019. The mayor of Pictou says his community has enjoyed the lack of emissions since the mill shut down more than a year ago. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The Northern Pulp mill in 2019. The mayor of Pictou says his community has enjoyed the lack of emissions since the mill shut down more than a year ago. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Northern Pulp has submitted a proposed plan to the Nova Scotia Environment Department that a company official says will "transform" the beleaguered and shuttered Pictou County mill.

But beyond that promise, a spokesperson for parent company Paper Excellence Canada is offering few details.

"The transformation dramatically improves the wastewater project among many other important elements of the mill's emissions profile," Graham Kissack said in an email.

"More details about the transformation plan and community engagement will be released in the coming weeks."

The mill shut down at the end of January 2020 when the company failed to get approval to build a new effluent treatment facility. That project was necessary when the provincial government upheld the terms of the Boat Harbour Act, which called for the former tidal estuary to stop being used to treat effluent from the mill.

Members of Pictou Landing First Nation have since commented on the dramatic change they've seen in the area already since effluent stopped flowing.

Minister to decide on Class 1 or 2 assessment

A spokesperson for the provincial government said Northern Pulp provided its project description to the Environment Department on May 14.

Staff will review the materials and may request additional details from the company, Tracy Barron said in an email. Environment Minister Keith Irving will decide whether the project requires a Class 1 or 2 environmental assessment. The latter review type is larger in scale.

"There is no regulatory timeline on when that decision must be made," said Barron.

"We know Nova Scotians are interested in this project and government will advise when a decision is made and the rationale behind it."

The proposal the company was previously advancing was controversial, mainly on account of a pipeline that would have taken treated effluent from the mill site at Abercombie Point and discharged it in the Northumberland Strait.

Town of Pictou happy with current situation

Members of the Pictou Landing First Nation, fishing groups, environmentalists and other community members protested the proposal, refusing to endorse anything that included a pipeline.

Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The Town of Pictou's council was likewise opposed to the previous proposal, in part because the pipeline would have crossed the community's watershed.

In an interview Thursday, Mayor Jim Ryan said he and his council have no information about the new proposal the mill is advancing, but Ryan said he and his community are happy with the current situation that includes the mill not operating.

"Air emissions have always been a problem here and, personally, I feel that we're going to move forward and concentrate wholly on making our town and this region attractive," he said.

"Our harbour is a beautiful harbour, obviously, with lots of potential — unrealized potential."

Unclear if new project includes a pipeline

The town recently announced intentions to develop a new master plan for its waterfront.

In preparation to submit its new proposal, earlier this month officials with Northern Pulp withdrew the company's application for an environmental assessment review of the project that included the pipeline, as well as abandoning an attempt for a judicial review of the minister's decision that led to the company not getting approval for that project.

It remains unclear if this new proposal includes a pipeline of some kind. Northern Pulp is in bankruptcy protection as the company attempts to reorganize its affairs with the goal of restarting the mill.

Ryan said that his council would respond "from an environmental perspective" to any proposal advanced by the mill.

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