Fishermen are unanimously against Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment plans after the closure of the Boat Harbour treatment facility.
The response of over 300 fishermen at a consultation hosted Monday by Northern Pulp was, as Ron Heighton put it, that “they are not putting a pipe into our fishing territory. No way – it’s not going to happen.”
Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, was in attendance with fishermen from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. Also at the consultation were people representing the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board and the fishermen’s associations of New Brunswick and P.E.I.
“There were representatives for about 3,500 fishermen, and we’re all 100 per cent behind the statement that there will be no pipeline in the Northumberland Strait,” Heighton said Tuesday.
One of the biggest concerns Heighton and the other fishermen had was the amount of effluent the new proposed technology would be built to accommodate.
“Ninety million litres of effluent going out of there every day – is that not a concern? We worry because they constantly abused their air emissions (guidelines), and they’ll do the same with the water,” said Heighton. “If there are five tons of toxic waste, and they just dilute it, with millions of gallons of water, you still have five tons of toxic waste.”
Heighton said the means of construction, “digging a hole through the fishing bottom to place a pipe,” was something beyond consideration and discussion for himself and his fellow fishermen.
The new system was unacceptable to him and the rest of the fishermen at the meeting, Heighton said, adding that the entire thing would need to be redesigned before it would be approved by the fishermen whose livelihoods are at stake.
Heighton said that if Northern Pulp had taken into consideration any input from those in the fishing industry when designing the new treatment technology, he and the other fishermen would have been willing to work out a compromise that satisfied both parties.
“They should get rid of that contractor and go back to the drawing board. They should bring us in on the design – to work on a thing we both could live with,” said Heighton.
Heighton said the only acceptable solution would be for Northern Pulp to create a closed-loop system of effluent treatment – something experts have said is impossible with the technology in place in the mill, and the kind of pulp it produces.
“We could help them initially get funding to modify the mill to get a zero-effluent mill,” said Heighton. “We’d be glad to sit down and work with them to achieve the funding to do that; but that fell on deaf ears last night.”
Although he is disappointed with the plans Northern Pulp revealed, Heighton is confident the new system will not go through.
“The last time the provincial government tried this, we fought it and won. We have the right on our side, because it’s the right thing,” he said. “I’ve been at this for 28 years, and I know what the fishermen want, and what they’ll accept. This is not going to be accepted, simple as that.”
Heighton stressed that he is not trying to pit one industry against another, and is simply “trying to make sure we have an industry that is there for our grandchildren.”