'The last straw'

Protest against Northern Pulp emissions draws 200 community members

Published on August 4, 2014
Protest sign

MOUNT WILLIAM - When Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister, told CBC News last week that there was no imminent threat to human health from Northern Pulp emissions, Jane Thomson decided to act, calling it “the last straw” for her.

She, and 200 others, took to the parking lot at the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Sunday – an act of symbolism, she says – to protest the emissions from Northern Pulp.

“I think some people here, probably if you questioned everybody here, would find some people that think the mill can continue to operate because they’re very hopeful that the new precipitator will solve the problem. I’m not,” she said.

She wants to see a solution from the government this week, asking for a closure until “it’s cleaned up.”

Thomson wasn’t alone in her frustration.

Cars driving by honked as the crowd shouted, “we want wellness,” a much larger crowd than the last community protest held outside Peter MacKay’s office.

Natalie Gordon, a Pictou resident, spoke at the event about recent lung issues and long-standing cognitive problems. 

“I have been fatigued for two years, have had headaches, have felt heaviness in my lungs before. But what changed last week, I think the heat and the humidity, it just pressed the pollution down and it sat like a fog,” she said. “I couldn’t see across the room of my dwelling when I woke up. It was filled with smoke and I had slept for 10 hours, breathing deeply right beside a window. It was that morning that I woke up and had burning around my mouth, and I still have a metallic taste in my mouth. It’s the eighth day I believe, and it feels like I’ve had a chemical strip right from my lips, my mouth, right down to my lungs. It feels like there’s little pieces of glass in my lungs and I can’t get a full breath.” Gordon added that she “takes care of her health.”

Pam MacDonald, who lives in Lochbroom, has been concerned about the mill emissions for many years.

She said she calls the Department of Environment’s office in Granton and Northern Pulp on a regular basis when the haze is thick.

“When the fog hits, you can’t see [the department of environment office]. Why do I have to call you, and tell you? You know they’re out of compliance. You can’t see out your windows.”

In response to comments from job losses that would occur if the mill closed, she said the county has already lost jobs.

“Pictou’s a ghost town. What about tourism?”

Northern Pulp officials said in a recent interview that shutting down the mill until a new precipitator is installed would end up as a permanent closure.

They acknowledged the problems they’re having with the current filtration system, stating that the aged precipitator “has deteriorated more rapidly than initially expected.”

The replacement is scheduled for installation by May 2015.