It’s safe to say that emissions from the pulp mill at Abercrombie Point have been a back-burner issue for decades. Enough of the right elements came together in the past month to point toward a much-improved outcome.
In fact, enough things happened that, a few years from now, the story of how things at Northern Pulp changed would likely vary a bit depending on whom you asked.
But with work underway now toward installing the new electrostatic precipitator, the future there is looking brighter than ever.
The company, in presenting a view of long-range plans to the public, often tried to make the point that continual improvements were always part of the picture. The persistent odour, however, which did seem worse this summer, saw a growing public backlash that simply wasn’t satisfied.
That unrelenting pressure from the public, groups focused on this issue and local businesses certainly was a help. It finally got to the point that the provincial government couldn’t – as they typically did in the past – simply pay lip service to the discontented public.
Thus we had a declaration this week from the current government that the mill has a deadline of May 30, 2015, to have the precipitator installed and meeting specified environmental standards or it faces shutdown. Premier Stephen McNeil said the compliance order issued to the company means emissions have to be within legal limits or it loses its permit to operate.
So we’ve finally dispensed with the political double-speak at least – you couldn’t fudge the interpretation of that.
Testing of emissions will also be more stringent.
It’s been a harrowing couple of months. Some were more vocal than others, but we had reminders regularly of the immense economic significance of Northern Pulp to the county and province.
Impatience will be understood, but also understood is that the upgrades can’t come overnight. Still, the feeling that dogged public determination has hastened the change is cause for optimism.