PICTOU LANDING – Cars honked as they passed by protestors on Pictou Landing Road – the loudest the peaceful protest got Wednesday morning.
Approximately one dozen protestors stood or sat along the shoulder in front of the gated access road to the Northern Pulp leak site.
People passing by dropped off coffee and breakfast after many of the protestors had been there since the early hours of the morning.
Tonya Francis stayed overnight, leaving only to catch a few hours of sleep.
She’s there because she’s concerned about the health of her children. She lives on the reserve with her three children, ranging in age from three to 11.
“(The odor) was so bad, I’d wake up and couldn’t breathe,” she said about when the mill was running.
Northern Pulp has been shut down since the leak was discovered at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, causing effluent to flow into Pictou Harbour.
Many of the protestors have been on site since Tuesday afternoon, blocking machinery from entering.
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul says they don’t want excavators in there without an archeologist.
The area near the leak is close to an ancient burial ground, they say, but they don’t know for sure where it begins.
“All that we ask is that we be a part of the situation,” she said.
Only one piece of machinery has tried to enter, protestors say, and they were asked to leave.
Band councilor Dominic Denny said it was a calm exchange, and the mill worker left right away.
RCMP are keeping an eye on the situation.
More to come
For the first time in a long time, there was no plume coming out of Northern Pulp on Tuesday. But for those who have longed to see the pollution from the pulp mill stopped, it was only the sign of something worse.
Out of sight of most effluent was leaking from a broken pipe and flowing into the water that feeds into Pictou Harbour.
The leak in the effluent system pipe at Northern Pulp was detected near the pipe’s landfall on the Pictou Landing side of the East River early Tuesday morning, sparking a shut down of the mill and a protest by the Pictou Landing First Nation.
The leak was detected at around 7 a.m. and forced Northern Pulp management to shutdown the mill while the situation was addressed.
"Our primary concern is the safety of the public, mill employees and protection of the environment," read a release from the company. "At this time, all resources are focused on ensuring that the shutdown of the mill and containment of any effluent is carried out in a safe and timely manner."
Northern Pulp said there is no danger posed to the public and that the mill has protocols in place and trained staff in the event of these situations. Nova Scotia Department of the Environment was contacted and the mill said they are working with them and others to assess the situation.
Lori Errington with the Department of Environment said an inspector was in the field. She said they were notified within an hour of the discovery of the leak. The leak she said was going through a wetland, an estuary and onto the river. Getting it stopped was the main priority.
“Our inspection is ongoing looking for what lead to the leak what steps taken to address and how can this be prevented from happening again,” she said.
Stantec, a monitoring company is looking at the impact on ground water and surface water.
Members of Pictou Landing First Nation, angry that they weren’t notified of the leak sooner, protested in front of a blocked entrance to the site Tuesday afternoon and stopped any machinery from accessing the site because they say it is on an aboriginal burial site.
Chief Andrea Paul said she found out through social media about the leak.
“I was quite concerned that we were not notified this morning of the leak,” she said.
She personally inspected the leak.
“We have some historical claim to this piece of property,” she said. “History has it that it’s an ancient burial site, so they are not supposed to be digging unless we’re consulted first through the proper channels. They need to consult with us.”
Sue Fraser, a resident of Pictou Landing, was also out at the protest. She said it’s troubling to hear of the effluent pouring into the water that her father once fished and her son now does.
“What kind of stuff is going into the water that will affect the fisheries,” she asked.
She has long been bothered by the mill and the pollution coming from it.
“That thing going every day is concerning,” she said.