Russell Wangersky: Taxpayers, beware
It’s an interesting peek inside the wonders of the bureaucratic mind. In New Brunswick, a provincial agency didn’t have time to properly assess more than 2,000 homes for property taxes.
To the editor,
Just as I started to write this, I was informed that a deal has been reached between the Pictou Landing First Nation and the provincial government ending the blockade to the effluent pipe rupture and spill site.
I am not privy to the details of the agreement, but whatever they are, they will not change the fundamental facts concerning the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility.
The Northern Pulp kraft pulp mill cannot operate without proper treatment of its liquid effluent. Where will that treatment take place? A few years ago some preliminary engineering was completed on locating the treatment facility on-site at Abercromie Point – estimated cost over $100 million – with the treated effluent discharge either going directly into Pictou Harbour, or pumped through to new pipe extension from Boat Harbour to MacKenzie Head and then into Pictou Road via a pipe extension with a diffuser. Neither was deemed feasible, nor acceptable to the public.
So the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility was the default treatment option! Discussions then centred around closing down that part of the treatment facility no longer needed for compliance treatment – the original part of Boat Harbour referred as Boat Harbour Main or as the settlement lagoon of the treatment process. This one part of Boat Harbour was always referred by government officials as Boat Harbour – and this was the part of be cleaned up for about $60 million. The cost of closing down and cleaning up ALL of Boat Harbour – removal of the aerators, removal of the landfill, removal of the settling ponds, removal of all buildings and the return of ALL of Boat Harbour to tidal – was estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Which then leads to the question that has this and former governments baffled – where is the mill effluent to be treated?
Most people I know who want Boat Harbour "cleaned up" think that means ALL of Boat Harbour, not part, and the end of the treatment facility – that's why no alternate treatment site has ever been chosen. All possible solutions to this problem over the years were deemed unfeasible – from an engineering out of view, or from a cost point of view – often both.
Put me in the column of skeptics of a government solution to this problem – not even throwing hundreds of millions of taxpayer money at this will solve it.
It's rather simple to look objectively to this: No effluent treatment = no pulp mill. If no treatment at Boat Harbour, where?
Every provincial government since the mid-1960s has had a hand in creating and maintaining this mess. I doubt the present government will change much – there will be timelines that play out past the next provincial election – as have all other timelines and promises.