© ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
ABERCROMBIE POINT – The air was thick at Abercrombie Point Tuesday morning, as Pictou County’s three MLAs gathered at Northern Pulp for meetings with the directors there.
“Because of the wind and the high humidity, it’s absolutely our worst day,” said John Hamm, the former premier who now serves as the chair of the mills board of directors.
“When you have this high humidity, the plume has trouble going up. Of course the wind direction is taking it right into the harbor. When we have a new precipitator we’ll have far less particulate matter and it will go up better.”
Plans for improvement were the order of the day for the MLAs and the directors, who say they’ve been working together for months in an effort to resolve the environmental concerns at the mill. Among the plans is the precipitator Hamm alluded to as well as other extensive projects, said Pictou East MLA Clarrie MacKinnon.
“Some major, major expenditures are being looked at down the road and not all that far down the road,” MacKinnon said.
All three local representatives said they’ve heard the complaints from residents, from those living next to Boat Harbour in Pictou East to those neighbours to the mill in Pictou West who complain of air quality. Those in Pictou Centre too have concerns.
“I think all three of us are hearing concerns from our constituents that it is a problem and they’re expecting us as a government to find some solutions. That’s exactly where we’re coming from,” said Natural Resources minister Charlie Parker.
“We’re trying to find a balance between protecting the environment and responsible economy,” he said. “It’s important to have both of those.”
The provincial government is expected to make a contribution to the upgrades.
Pictou Centre MLA Ross Landry who is an avid cyclist and runner, said one of the reasons he first ran as a representative was to air quality issues at both Northern Pulp and the Trenton Generating Station in Trenton. He said he’s happy to see that the company is willing to work with them.
The company has been very supportive and very committed, from what we’re seeing, to addressing those issues.”
He said they are trying to take a practical approach.
“We want this business to succeed,” Landry said. “It has great potential and is a vibrant part of the community.”
The mill puts $3.5 million a week into the economy, with spinoffs that affect businesses throughout Northern Nova Scotia, Hamm said.
“Industries such as this are not all that common in rural Nova Scotia,” he said. “They are worth preserving.”
While it may not seem it some days such as this with the potent smell and plumes hanging over the water and land, he remains firm that progress is being made.
“We’re light-years ahead of where we were, but we’re still a distance from where we’d like to be and where the community would want us to be,” Hamm said. “I think cooperating with the community is the way to go and that will be the way in which we travel and we’re going to find a solution.”
MLAs Parker and MacKinnon took a tour of the Boat Harbour treatment facility as well on Tuesday.