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LETTER: Northumberland Strait in danger

Northern Pulp is once again the centre of an issue evoking strong emotions in the people of Pictou County. However, in this case, the usual argument of jobs versus environment has changed as the stakes are much higher. It is now ‘Northern Pulp jobs’ versus jobs related to the North Shore fisheries, our way of life as a coastal community and, of course, our aquatic environment. Will this part of N.S. still warrant the title “Canada’s Ocean Playground” when dead marine-life washes on our shores?

We are quick to point an accusatory finger at the mill and, without a doubt, they are guilty of operating an old, out-of-date mill with no investment (unless forced upon them) in updates to meet current industry standards. However, if you can get away with it, why not? Northern Pulp makes a staggering profit. Our government recently levied a hefty fine against the mill of less than $700 for emitting particulate matter well above the allowable limit. For how long? Well NP self-monitors their emissions and they’re not telling. With belly laughs and slaps on the back, Northern Pulp and its parent company, Paper Excellence, raised a glass in salute to the government that day.

Boat Harbour, ‘the tar ponds of Pictou County,’ must be closed by 2020 with an “acceptable” alternative in place. (Oh, just a reminder, we the taxpayers, will foot much of the bill.) The mill is currently proposing a pipe to flush over 90 million litres of effluent directly into the Northumberland Strait… our Strait, our pride, our identity. Yes, you read correctly, that’s 90 million litres every single day. But rest easy, as NP assures us that if it is expelled intermittently throughout the day rather than all at once, all will be well below the surface. Our lobster, scallops, crab, herring, mackerel, etc., will live happily ever after, completely unaffected. This is an insult to our intelligence. However, Northern Pulp is yet again courting our provincial government. According to a source at the mill, pipe has already arrived at the mill for this project. NP executives are making the logical assumption that the N.S. government is going to rubber stamp the process as they have done so many times in the past. We can’t let this happen.

Interestingly enough, our federal environment minister stated recently that protecting the aquatic environments of the Atlantic Provinces was a priority. Perhaps he should make a quick call to our provincial government. The time has come when we must stand together and put an end to Northern Pulp’s stronghold over the government of N.S. The jobs of some cannot continue to take precedence over the jobs of others, the well-being of our people, and the health of our land, air and waters. Northern Pulp can continue to operate when, and only when, it makes the upgrades needed to make it a modern plant in compliance with all Canadian environmental standards. NP is currently a third-world industry operating with the blessing and seemingly never-ending financial support of our government.

Please join the fishermen in their fight to save livelihoods and a way of life in N.S. Go to any public meetings and make your voice heard. Your children and your children’s children will be thankful you made a difference.

Bernice Langille

RR3 New Glasgow

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