Councillors fed up with pulp mill breaking rules

Published on August 6, 2014

PICTOU – There are two sets of rules for business in this province depending on what size of company you operate, says a local county councillor.

Coun. Robert Parker, who is also a small business owner, said he would never be able to get away with the same infractions that Northern Pulp is doing with its emissions.

“In my business, if I was breaking any environmental laws, I would be closed down,” he said. “I wouldn’t be given any leeway.”

Northern Pulp has been subject to public criticism lately with people raising health concerns over the amount of emissions coming from the Abercrombie plant. The company has acknowledged the problems they’re having with the current filtration system, stating that the aged precipitator “has deteriorated more rapidly than initially expected.”

The existing precipitator was constructed when the mill was built in 1967 with modifications to it through the years as production increased. It has reached its limit for dust removal and this new precipitator is being built to replace it. The replacement is scheduled for installation by May 2015, but many people and local businesses are calling for the plant to close until it is fixed properly.

“I wouldn't want to run a little business in Pictou County and try to attract people overnight and then that stuff comes in and people get up and leave,” he said. “These businesses are important to the county and they are demanding a solution.”

He agreed with Coun. David Parker that county council must take some action and write a letter requesting that Northern Pulp do something sooner rather than later.

“To do nothing is not acceptable anymore,” he said. “It’s too important to other people’s lives not do anything.”

David Parker said the current environmental situation is not acceptable, but closing the mill is not a suitable alternative either.

“We suffered two heavy blows and if this plant closes it would be more severe than those two put together,” he said.

David suggested council write a letter to MP Peter MacKay, the county’s three MLAs, the province’s Environment Department as well as Northern Pulp asking it to do as much as it can to get it within the environmental standards and try to accelerate getting the new precipitator in place.

“When you are in the middle of a bad situation, you can’t throw up your hands and say I quit,” he said. “You have to deal with the situation you are dealt. It’s not black and white, but it’s shades of grey. Shutting down the mill will kill it, but doing nothing will kill some of us.”

Coun. Jim Turple said Northern Pulp should have been prepared before now to deal with replacing the precipitator instead of making the people and businesses pay for their mistake.

“I am fed up with these two sets of rules for Northern Pulp and others for small businesses like Robert Parker’s,” he said. “They waited until now to figure out the precipitator was wearing out? It’s time to smarten up and give us a clean place to raise our families.”

The motion was passed and the letter will be sent.