A 2011 evaluation of the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility showed several gaps in the current monitoring program.
The Halifax Media Co-op published the hydrogeological and hydrological evaluation conducted by Stantec Consulting Ltd. after submitting an access to information request.
Stantec’s mandate was to evaluate “existing groundwater and surface water compliance monitoring programs” that take place at the at the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility site.
The study noted data gaps in groundwater and surface monitoring and a lack of mill effluent chemical characterization.
While the author of the Halifax Media Co-op article concluded that the 2011 evaluation shows no monitoring of mill effluent as it enters Boat Harbour, Nova Scotia Environment Media Relations Advisor Lori Errington said that’s not accurate.
“The study was on groundwater on land related to leachate from some decommissioned industrial waste landfills on site,” she said. “It’s not about effluent. We absolutely do require that effluent be tested.”
Northern Pulp, in fact, commissioned the report, at the request of Nova Scotia Environment as part of the requirements to operation the pulp mill at the Abercrombie site.
Errington noted that the study dealt with three landfills on Northern Pulp property in Abercrombie, two of which have since been decommissioned. In 1989 it was determined that liquid from solid waste, or leachate, from the landfills was going into a brook and into the Middle River.
“This was corrected and it’s tested annually to ensure the water isn’t affected anymore,” said Errington.
The leachate is diverted to the ponds that aerate the effluent, is treated then goes into Boat Harbour with the effluent from the mill’s operations.
Questions still remain around other conclusions contained in the report, including a ‘lack of mill effluent source characterization’ and ‘lack of analytical data that metals concentrations … do not occur at the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility discharge’.
For Matt Gunning of the Clean up the Pictou County Pulp Mill Facebook group, this report is evidence that there are still unknowns when it comes to the mill’s effluent.
“We’ve been questioning all along whether monitoring has been rigid enough and this report indicated that it hasn’t,” he said. “We’re glad to have the info but it’s discouraging.”
While suspicion as to whether or not heavy metals are byproducts of the mill’s operations was refuted by then Northern Pulp Manager Don Breen, Gunning said the report noted little evidence to back up those claims.
“Northern Pulp doesn’t have to talk about what they don’t test,” said Gunning. “If they don’t test for it, it’s not there.”
The release of the Stantec report has Gunning and other members of the Facebook page, concerned that rather than see proactive steps being taken, they’re seeing reactive steps.
“The regulations just aren’t there. They need to be stepped up and we need to see them reflect 2014. It’s ridiculous.”
Northern Pulp’s operating permit from Nova Scotia Environment was due to expire on April 19 but was extended by the department until Jan. 30, 2015. In a Facebook post, Errington noted this was not a new approval only a change to the existing approval.
“Because the company can’t operate without an approval, and in order to allow time to review updated information and consult with the community and Pictou Landing First Nation, NSE will be extending the current approval…”
Gunning said while the extension until Jan. 30, 2015 may be too lengthy and looks bad, it’s encouraging that there will be a community consultation.
“They want to really make sure they have all of their facts straight, especially where new equipment is being installed and a natural gas hookup is in the works.”
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul promised to end the flow of pulp wastewater into nearby Boat Harbour by “any means necessary” on Apr. 17 after it was announced Northern Pulp’s permit would be extended.
The chief said the minister’s decision violates an agreement reached with the Band in 1995 and flies in the face of a recent Nova Scotia Liberal party resolution calling upon the government to take action on Boat Harbour.
Details regarding the community consultations have yet to be released. A representative from Northern Pulp was unavailable for comment at print time.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn