ABERCROMBIE – Nova Scotia Environment has ordered Northern Pulp to lower its sulphur and particulate emissions.
“They were out of compliance with their particulate and total reduced sulphur emissions,” Penny McLeod, the Environmental Monitoring and Compliance district manager for Pictou County, said in an interview. “What they’ve been asked to do is complete an engineering study for the recovery boiler, air pollution control equipment and select an option to bring particulate and total reduced sulphur emissions into compliance and provide an implementation schedule by September 30, 2013.”
McLeod said Northern Pulp is still required to meet compliance limits in the months leading up to the Sept. 30 deadline.
“The total reduced sulphur is measured continuously, so they still have to try to meet those numbers,” she said. “Yesterday when I talked to the mill, they were actually meeting those numbers. Particulate is a little different, it’s done by a stack test that’s only done twice a year.”
Don Breen, acting general manager of Northern Pulp, said the mill installed new equipment last year, which is the root of the problem of excessive sulphur emissions.
“We did install the new equipment last year, but like everything else, it takes a while to get people familiar with the equipment, the operating procedure, it just takes time,” he said. “In February, like it says in the directive, it said there were indications that it was exceeded on occasions, it didn’t say all the time. So on a few days we were above the limit.”
Breen said to fix the issue of exceeding sulphur emission limits, the mill will be optimizing its new equipment.
“What we plan to do is continue to optimize the new equipment we put on so we can maintain the performance below the stack limit as required by the permit,” he said, adding that to fix the issue of particulate emissions exceeding limits, the mill will pay for an engineering study.
“This is a fairly detailed engineering study worth about $80,000 and we’re going to be looking at new technology that will remove the particulate from the flue gas leaving the boiler,” he said. “This is an engineering study that we have to do by the directive from Nova Scotia Environment.”
Breen said the mill will look at a new “state of the art” precipitator that takes the particulate out of the stack.
“We’ve hired a firm out of Halifax, they’ve already started this,” he said. “It will take several months to complete.”
McLeod said the department found out Northern Pulp was exceeding acceptable sulphur emissions when the mill reported it to them.
She also said sulphur emissions are regulated by Nova Scotia Environment because of its foul odour.
“You do get total reduced sulphur from natural sources, it comes from natural sources as well as from industrial activities,” she said. “They’re not considered a health hazard, it’s actually the odour – that is the reason why they are regulated.”
The odour associated with the mill’s sulphur emissions is an issue some locals have become vocal about.
The Pictou County Watershed Coalition released a statement Monday calling for a comprehensive audit of the most recent government grant given to Northern Pulp worth $28 million for its Green Transformation Program.
Ron Kelly of Caribou said in the coalition’s statement that “since it was taxpayers who footed the bill, they have the right to know where their money is going. And they have a right to live in a clean and healthy environment,” he said.
Jane Sproull Thomson of Pictou Landing also stated in the coalition’s press release that “the smell is worse than ever,” and “at times the stench is so nauseating we have to stay indoors.”
According to Northern Pulp’s website, the mill used the grant to upgrade its power boiler, improve recovery cycles, upgrade the mill’s odour control system, which the website states reduced odour compounds by 70 per cent, and to reinstate the power boiler scrubber as part of a directive from the Department of Environment issued in 2012, which had to be met by November 2012.
“We are pleased to report that we completed the task on time and the upgraded scrubbing system is in operation and working well,” the website states.