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P.E.I. premier raises alarm over Northern Pulp effluent treatment plant

Aerators add oxygen to the water at the Boat Harbour Facility.
Aerators add oxygen to the water at the Boat Harbour Facility. - Mark Goudge

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Premier Wade MacLauchlan is calling on the federal government to require a more comprehensive impact assessment of Northern Pulp’s plans for a new effluent treatment facility for its Pictou County mill, citing concerns over P.E.I.’s lobster industry.

MacLauchlan has sent letters to both federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil expressing his concerns over the proposed facility’s plans to release wastewater from the pulp mill into the Northumberland Strait.

“I share the concerns of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island fishers that an outflow pipe placed into the Northumberland Strait could have unintended consequences for our commercial fishery and aquaculture industries,” MacLauchlan wrote.

“An effluent pipe that would allow as much as 75,000 cubic metres of fresh warm water to be directed daily into the Northumberland Strait is not a project that our government will support as proposed.”

Related: Effluent dump in Northumberland Strait of 'dire concern,' says P.E.I. Fisheries minister

Northern Pulp in Pictou, N.S., has been told by the N.S. government to replace the wastewater treatment facility at the mill by 2020. But, updating the facility could involve a process that would see wastewater drained into the Northumberland Strait, if it goes ahead as planned.

Related: P.E.I. fisherman says meeting increased concerns over effluent dump in Northumberland Strait

MacLauchlan noted the Northumberland Strait has one of the more sensitive areas within the Gulf of St Lawrence with unique tidal and water circulation patterns.

Related: Opposition pressing for legal action against effluent from Pictou pulp mill

A more comprehensive impact assessment is required to determine the full scope of how the water and sea life could be affected by this development, MacLauchlan said.

“I understand that a Level 1 environmental assessment will be conducted this summer. I ask that a more comprehensive assessment take place and that the impact on Island fisheries is taken into consideration as part of this work,” he wrote to McKenna and McNeil.

“I am confident that we all agree that any development that risks the habitat and reproductive cycle of species such as lobster - or that threatens the livelihood of thousands of families dependent on the fisheries in the Northumberland Strait - cannot proceed.”

He added his wish to discuss this “environmentally sensitive matter in greater detail” with both ministers.

Kathy Cloutier, director of communications for Paper Excellence Canada, which owns Northern Pulp, responded to the P.E.I. premier by saying that Nova Scotia already has a regulatory system in place to ensure that projects and activities proceed in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“We are meeting the regulatory requirements set out by government through the Nova Scotia Department of Environment,” she stated.

Cloutier said that the company expects to formally register the Effluent Treatment Facility Replacement project in late spring or early summer 2018.

“Prior to this as pre-registration consultation, Northern Pulp is committed to working with government, our neighbouring communities, as well as the province of Prince Edward Island throughout this process to share information and address concerns,” she said.

As a company she said they take the responsibility to develop a new effluent treatment facility seriously.

“Effluent has been discharged into the Northumberland Strait for 50 years,” she said. “Effluent of today is not the same as decades ago as significant improvements have been made over the years.”

– WITH FILES FROM THE NEWS (NEW GLASGOW)

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