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Sean Fraser says feds keeping an eye on controversy over Northern Pulp pipe plan

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

PICTOU, N.S.

A rally that drew thousands of people to Pictou’s waterfront last Friday in protest over Northern Pulp’s plans to pipe treated effluent into local waters was not overlooked by the federal government, says Central Nova MP Sean Fraser.

“I have raised concerns I have heard in the community,” he said Wednesday.

In fact, he had the ear of Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna Tuesday during her visit to Halifax and took the opportunity to “walk her through what has been going on.”

Fraser, who greeted rally participants Friday before they marched to the waterfront, said a day doesn’t pass when concerns from both sides of the issue are voiced to him and he is confident science and best evidence will determine a decision.

At this point, he said, the federal government is aware of Northern Pulp’s plans to submit a proposal to the provincial government for an effluent pipe to be placed in the Northumberland Strait after it is treated in an on-site facility, but until the proposal becomes a reality, there is little that can be done, other than keeping abreast of concerns around the project.

He said the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is monitoring the situation, meeting with stakeholders and collecting information and will make a recommendation to the federal government on whether it should conduct its own assessment when its investigation is complete and Northern Pulp’s proposal is filed.

Northern Pulp confirmed last week it needed to change the location of the pipe because of obstacles in the water it cannot get around as well as potential issues with ice interfering with its outfall location. It said it wasn’t known where the new location would be nor when its proposal would be submitted to the province. The company has a deadline of 2020 to get its new treated effluent system up and running to meet the province’s closure deadline for Boat Harbour.

Jill Scanlan, a founder of Friends of the Northumberland, said the mill’s plan to move the pipe doesn’t change its focus to keep the treated effluent out of local waters. Instead, she said, her group has new momentum on its side after the July 6 rally and she believes it will continue to grow.

“This has re-energized us and makes us more focused and more determined to see that this pipe doesn’t go into the strait,” she said, acknowledging that not knowing the mill’s new plans adds extra uncertainty to the issue. “We don’t know the timelines and we don’t know the new route they are examining. They really need to advise people on the new route now. It is their responsibility and is something the province should insist they do as well. Community input and consultation are vital parts of the whole process.”

Ron Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, said fishers have already asked for a meeting with the province’s new environment minister, Margaret Miller, and will continue to do their best to sort through rumour and fact.

As for the rally, he said, fishers knew they had the support among each other, but the event proved they are not alone in their battle to keep the effluent pipe out of the strait.

“It was a very important issue to a lot of people,” he said. “The support we have on the land is unbelievable.”

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