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PICTOU – You’ve been heard and your concerns are being taken seriously.
That’s the message from Environment Minister Randy Delorey, who said he’s been innovated with calls, emails and messages on social media concerning emissions from Northern Pulp.
“I've received lots of correspondence, both through the department and my constituency office and a big part is the health concerns,” he said.
The minister reiterated that there is no imminent threat to human health from the emissions despite what some health professionals have stated.
“That was the advice and info based on the reviews made by the Department of Health. Imminent means there is no immediate short-term health ramifications.”
He noted that when dealing with health issues, the department relies on advice and research, reaching out to the Department of Health with the most up-to-date data.
“We continue to look at information however – even where there may be gaps in current research.”
But beyond health, Delorey said people wonder if they’ve been heard.
“It’s tough when you have this basically 50-year-old facility about which people have had concerns,” he said. “I have heard the frustration of not being heard or not being taken seriously and here we are in 2014 and those concerns remain. Rest assured, you’ve been heard.”
He found it encouraging that Northern Pulp released details of what will take place during a scheduled shutdown in September.
“I've often indicated that information should be available. Take the Boat Harbour situation, when we got test results back we made that available online even though compliance action is yet to be determined.”
A stack test for the mill that was supposed to take place back in June has been rescheduled for Aug 18. Delorey said the effluent leak and shutdown of the mill made testing at that time impossible.
“This testing requires specialized equipment from a third party looking at particulate emissions. Northern Pulp has 60 days to provide us with those details but we’re looking to get it much sooner, possibly within a month.”
He’s unsure if the document will be made public, as the mill technically owns the report. A freedom of information request may have to be submitted, though he said he’s looking into it.
Looking back on when he was appointed minister, Delorey said he was aware that it would be a busy file in Pictou County. During the election campaign in 2013, he sent notice to the party membership when a Facebook page called Clean Up the Pictou County Pulp Mill only had about 100 members.
“I’ve never asked the premier about that, if it contributed to his decision to make me environment minister,” he said. “I was aware of the situation and it’s not just the Facebook group. There are certainly connections that made me aware of what was happening.”
Delorey noted that his department have and will continue to take proactive steps with the public in mind in coming up with long-term solutions around this facility.
“I’ve been active on it from day one.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn