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Environment Minister issues order and fine to Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp has been fined for exceeding the amount of particulate matter allowed from its power boiler.
Northern Pulp has been fined for exceeding the amount of particulate matter allowed from its power boiler.

Environment Minister Iain Rankin issued a ministerial order to Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation Tuesday, requiring the company to address issues with its power boiler.

The mill's industrial approval requires it to operate within a measure of 150 milligrams per referenced cubic metre of particulate matter when stacks are tested. The June 2017 stack test showed the power boiler tested at 224 milligrams per referenced cubic metre.

In part, the order requires the company to make public, on its website, stack test results until its industrial approval expires in 2020.

"The communities surrounding the mill have asked for more information about these stack tests and this order should help address these concerns and enhance transparency," said Rankin.

Under the order, the company must provide the department with its external consultant reports, as well as any reports for the two audits completed on the power boiler and the power boiler emission control equipment in the summer of 2017. The company must also provide the department with all training records related to the power boiler.

The mill will undergo a scheduled shutdown in October. The order requires the company to provide the department with detailed reports about what is planned for the shutdown, when the shutdown is completed and what the company achieved to bring the power boiler into compliance.

In addition to the order, the company was served a summary offence ticket for $697.50 for failing to comply with the terms and conditions of its industrial approval. These enforcement measures follow an investigation by the department after the June stack test.

"As a regulator, my focus is making sure companies comply with provincial regulations and within their industrial approvals," Rankin said in a release from the province. "In the past, if the Northern Pulp mill exceeded its limits, we have worked with the company to get the mill back into compliance. This recent stack test result is evidence that more work and enforcement are needed to ensure the power boiler is operating properly."

As part of its industrial approval, Northern Pulp is required to conduct power boiler stack tests four times a year. These tests are a proactive way to catch and address any problems with the boiler before it potentially causes a larger environmental issue. These are not health-based tests.  

Pictou's ambient air measures are well below the national average, according to Health Canada's guidelines, when it comes to health measures, and have been since 2014 when the new precipitator was put in place.

Kathy Cloutier, PEC Communications Director for Northern Pulp, said that levels within the industrial approval have been reduced from 500 to 150 mg/Rm3 in July 2012.  She said that of the past 10 regulatory stack tests conducted, three have been out of compliance.  

“Northern Pulp continues to work diligently to return to regulatory compliance,” she said.

She said it is important to recognize that the power boiler is a smaller fraction of mill particulate (approximately 20 to 3 per cent) as the stack volume is significantly smaller. “As well, the power boiler is akin to a wood stove in that it burns wood, therefore this is the particulate emitted from the power boiler. The power boiler on occasion does also burn natural gas, however this has almost no particulate as natural gas is a clean burning fuel with less greenhouse gas.”

Efficiency within the mill has led to emission improvements, she said.

“With the precipitators exceptional performance, there has been over a 99 per cent improvement in particulates emitting from the recovery boiler, which mill-wide equates to an 80 per cent improvement in particulate emitted.”

 

The corrective work on the power boiler is set to start on Oct. 14 and will include the following:

• Fuel Air Damper: Replacement of damper with new damper to reduce excess air, reduce gas volume and minimize oxygen content.

• Repairs to the power boiler grates: Grate service representative on site during shutdown to inspect grate and change seals if required.  

• Annual inspection of mechanical dust collectors to verify proper operation

• Replacement of bark chutes to reduce excess air

• Annual inspection of wet scrubber:  Install third stage droplet mist eliminator with shower nozzles.

• Leak inspection: Annual inspection and repair of boiler ducting, air heater, and ash hoppers to find and correct any air leakage

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