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Northern Pulp: Clean the Air group pollutes news media


To the editor, On Oct. 23, Northern Pulp sponsored a public consultation presentation at the deCoste Centre in Pictou. They are seeking public input in conjunction with the renewal of the industrial approval being prepared by N.S. Environment for Jan. 30.

The presentation featured visual displays such as photos and charts depicting the function of the various departments which comprise the mill.

Each display was staffed by employees of Northern Pulp to assist in interpretation and to answer questions. This was a very informative, well-planned and professional format.

I had some questions and all those were answered by a report I was shown. This report was prepared by Stantec Engineering. The report was more than an inch thick, which would be about 300 pages of information.

The report was a summary of conclusions based on data collected from a 30-kilometre radius around the mill site. There was information on temperatures, wind speed and direction, chemical emissions and concentration and a whole lot more. I checked several items I was concerned with and found them to be well within accepted standards. I was invited to visit the mill site and was assured access to any other information that interested me.

I asked if this information was available to the “protesters.” The answer was “Yes, but they don’t seem to understand any of the data.”

Recently, I see the “protesters” again have posted another full-page, fear-mongering ad in the local newspapers. I don’t know why they continue to waste money on the half-page size pictures of the mill – we all know what it looks like.

The second item on the list of statements reads: “In 2012 Northern Pulp emitted 63% of all the PM 2.5 in Nova Scotia, more than every other company combined.”

In my search for truth and facts I decided to verify this information, since they had inserted a footnote referring to 2012 Environment Canada National Pollutant Release Inventory as their source. The chart that I found on the Environment Canada website is titled: 2012 Particulate Matter-2.5 Microns or less (PM2.5) for Nova Scotia. As I read it I realized that was the same chart that was contained in the Stantec Report and shown to me by Northern Pulp at the consultation presentation.

Let’s put things in the proper perspective regarding PM2.5. The cardboard of a Rice Krispies cereal box is one millimetre thick. Divided that by 1,000 and you have one micron. This should help to visualize the size of a 2.5 micron particle – probably invisible under most conditions.

The chart lists sources of PM 2.5. There are 25 industrial sources, no companies names indicated anywhere. There are also 45 non-industrial sources listed.

The industrial source total is 1,713 tonnes. The portion of that attributed to pulp and paper production (three mills in Nova Scotia) totals 1,014 tonnes, which is 59 per cent of the industrial source total.

Assume Northern Pulp contributes one-third and you get 20 per cent of the total industrial portion.

To get a real appreciation of the amount of PM2.5 in the air you have to read the whole chart. Pulp and paper is on page 2 and there are eight pages.

Here are a few eye openers from the non-industrial source list:

Residential fuel wood consumption – 5,440 tonnes

Marine transportation – 1,999 tonnes

Dust from paved roads – 7,832 tonnes

Dust from unpaved roads – 7,378 tonnes.

The grand total for all PM2.5 emissions recorded for 2012 was 27,038 tonnes according to this chart. Again, assuming that Northern Pulp is responsible for one-third of the pulp and paper industry total of 1,014, their emission amount is 338 tonnes. That computes to 1.2 per cent total of PM2.5 emissions for Nova Scotia based on the information the “protesters” quote as a reference.

As I previously noted, all of the additional sources of PM2.5 I refer to above were included in the Stantec report that Northern Pulp made available for information. Imagine what may be found in the 15,000 tonnes of highway dust. How about rubber and tire component particulate, diesel fuel, gas, brake pad dust, antifreeze and God only knows what else that gets spilled or lands on our highways? A combination of these substances has the potential to create a very toxic dust cloud.

I found no reference to any emission levels for any specific companies on the Environment Canada website. I did find a note in the Air Pollutant Summary for 2012 which stated that PM2.5 levels had increased by five per cent from 1985 to 2012. The increase was attributed to increases in construction projects and growth in vehicle traffic on paved and unpaved roads.

I also had a brief look at the U.S. EPA standard for kraft pulp mills that is referenced in the ad. It applies to new or modified facilities where construction began in 2013, not existing older mills.

That really says it all doesn’t it? These “protesters” apparently have no credible facts to support their statements. Quoting Environment Canada as a source and then distorting that information to suit another agenda shows very poor judgment on their part.

I personally find it disturbing to see this group of local doctors endorsing the claims set forth in this media publication. If they are really passionate about this issue and respect the public they are targeting with their message they should do some research before making public statements.

I really feel that the media could do better job in their coverage of this situation. It took me about 30 minutes to find the chart and other information I refer to and to do a few calculations. Why aren’t they doing that?

The people in the area rely on the media for reliable, accurate information. If the media are willing to print whatever is sent to them without at least a review for accuracy they are failing their readers. I make every effort to research and validate anything I put in writing for publication.

If I have made statements in this letter that appear questionable I will gladly provide the sources of my information. I apologize in advance if I have in any way offended anyone in my interpretation of what is being forced upon us in these media releases.

Most Pictonians I know are a hard-working, hearty bunch and don’t need any help from those who (I quote Gary Heighton) “have not got a worry in the world where their next dollar is coming from” or other outsiders with their own agenda.

Kent Bingley

Pictou

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