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Northern Pulp to register plans for replacing treatment facility by end of January


The Boat Harbour treatment site processes waste water from the Northern Pulp mill, seen in the background. - The Chronicle Herald
The Boat Harbour treatment site processes waste water from the Northern Pulp mill, seen in the background. - The Chronicle Herald

ABERCROMBIE POINT, N.S. 

Northern Pulp will register its plans for replacing the Boat Harbour treatment facility with Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment by the end of January, triggering the start of the provincial environmental assessment.

Kathy Cloutier, director of communications for Paper Excellence, which owns Northern Pulp, says despite the fact the mill hasn’t yet been able to have a survey crew complete their work, the project will be registered using existing data. 

“That is a heavily surveyed area, so there is data we’re able to rely on, although our preference would have been our own updated survey,” she said. 

A survey boat had been blocked repeatedly from doing work in the area by fishermen opposed to the plans of pumping treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait. A judge has since issued a temporary injunction to prevent fishermen from stopping the survey boat from doing work. 

Cloutier didn’t rule out the possibility of the survey work being completed before the end of January, but said it would depend on availability of the survey boat, weather and safety. 

The project Northern Pulp submits will include the primarily land-based route for the pipe carrying treated effluent from Abercrombie Point, which will empty in the area off Caribou Point. Initially, Northern Pulp had been considering a route which would have emptied in the area of the Northumberland Strait off of Pictou Road, however, there were concerns about that route, including ice scours as well as a shipwreck that was located along the initially planned route. 

Cloutier said the Caribou route is their preferred route for various reasons, including the volume and depth of water in that location which would improve the mixing of the treated effluent flowing out with the water in the Strait. 

“It’s a better disbursement area and a shorter in-water pipe which answers some of the concerns raised by the community and others.” she said. 

While the initial route would have had between 10 and 13 kilometres of pipe underwater, this route will only have about three kilometres underwater. 

One of the biggest advantages of the new treatment facility over the existing Boat Harbour treatment facility is the fact that no untreated effluent will leave Northern Pulp’s property on Abercrombie Point, Cloutier said. With the existing system that’s been in operation since the mill opened, untreated effluent is piped from the mill at Abercrombie Point to the Boat Harbour treatment facility near Pictou Landing where it is treated before being released into Boat Harbour and then flows out to the Northumberland Strait. 

The province has decided the new treatment facility would fall into the Class 1 Environmental Assessment Category, which would take approximately 60 days. It hasn’t been determined yet whether a federal environmental assessment will be required. A federal assessment could take much longer to complete. 

Cloutier said the company has no doubts the project will meet the requirements of the environmental assessment. 

“We are confident in the project and the science,” she said ,adding it’s been designed by world-class engineers and will be built by a world-class company. 

Cloutier said engineers and design teams are currently trying to work on a feasible timeline for completion of the project. 

The company has already said it will not be able to meet the deadline of January, 2020 to close the existing Boat Harbour facility and are lobbying for the province to extend the deadline. She believes the extension is supported by those who understand the importance of the mill to the forestry industry and overall economy of the province. 

“This is an extension that is necessary to provide the time to complete construction," she said. 

She said it would be impossible to keep the mill going even under a hot idle without a treatment facility. 

The company is not even considering the option of temporarily closing at this point. No time would be optimal if they did have to shut it down, said Cloutier, but winter would particularly be difficult. 

“It would be a ripple effect from suppliers to contractors to the port of Halifax almost instantly.” 

RELATED LINKS

• Here's how Northern Pulp says its effluent treatment plan would work

• Environmental experts offer insight on proposed design

• Fishermen and Northern Pulp at an impasse

• ‘Everyone’s not going to be as nice as me’: Survey boat mapping Northern Pulp effluent pipe forced back to shore

• Fishermen, First Nation still oppose Northern Pulp pipe plan

• Northern Pulp pipeline could harm herring spawning beds, say PEI fishermen

• Northern Pulp scrambles to clean up effluent spill

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