An opposition MLA in Prince Edward Island is pressing the province to take legal action to prevent Pictou County’s pulp mill from constructing a treatment plant that would pump treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait.
Souris-Elmira PC MLA Colin Lavie also pushed the province to request a full federal environment review of the Northern Pulp mill, which has seen criticism from both P.E.I. and Nova Scotia fishermen for the proposed treatment plant.
Lavie said fishermen are alarmed by the plans.
“Will this government take legal action to protect our seafood industry and our environment?” asked Lavie, who noted the mill was fined earlier this fall when it was discovered it was emitting particulate matter above the allowable limit.
Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac said he didn’t feel the issue was “getting anywhere near that at the present time.”
Instead, McIsaac said the province hopes to solve the issue through discussions with his counterparts.
“We’re hoping we can come to some solutions so we don’t have to get government money spent going through the court system,” he said.
The proposed plant would replace a current wastewater lagoon in Boat Harbour, which is set to shut down by 2020.
McIsaac said he discussed the issue during the Southern Kings and Queens Fishermen’s Association’s annual meeting earlier this week.
He said he has also been in discussions with Nova Scotia ministers, as well as in contact with federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
“We are trying to get the word through to all players on all sides how important this issue is because we have to have this solved before 2020,” said McIsaac. “It’s a grave issue for sure. We have a large pipe that may be coming out upwards of a kilometre into the (Northumberland) strait, right into the heart of the fishing ground.”
McIsaac said the company that owns the plant also operates an in-land plant in Saskatchewan.
“Somehow they’re solving that problem in there without dumping it into a main waterway,” said McIsaac, adding that he hoped the Pictou plant could come to a similar solution.
Lavie said the issue has to be solved due to the importance of the seafood industry, which he said employs 9,000 Islanders directly and is worth $300 million per year to the P.E.I. economy.
McIsaac said he was well aware of the value of the industry.
“Not only to P.E.I. but also to Nova Scotia,” said McIsaac. “We need all partners involved in this to bring this to a good conclusion.”