Like all provinces and territories, Nova Scotia has a regulatory system in place to guide project planning in an environmentally sustainable manner. Within Nova Scotia, the Department of Environment (NSE) reviews projects and following the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment (EA) Regulations, it identifies the project as a either a Class 1 or Class 2 undertaking. Project proponents (in this case, Northern Pulp) have no influence on EA Class determination.
The government regulator, NSE, determined that Northern Pulp’s proposed project is required to follow a Class 1 process. Regardless of the classification (Class 1 or Class 2), it is Northern Pulp’s responsibility to demonstrate that they have heard input from aboriginal communities and the public, and are addressing environmental concerns raised. Typical Class 1 pre-project registration requires the proponent to identify concerns. It does not say how that should occur. Northern Pulp chose to host public information centres to hear directly from community and stakeholders.
To ensure transparency and to offer increased engagement with the community, multiple engagement sessions are being held. These are extra steps Northern Pulp as a company felt were necessary, and decided from the onset of this process, to implement.
Northern Pulp will hold another set of engagement sessions (anticipated spring 2018) providing an update on studies completed, share feedback on the environmental baseline information, and seek input on the environmental planning.
“We encourage anyone with an interest in the project to routinely visit the materials portion of the project website at www.northernpulpfuture.ca to review and provide feedback regarding available studies,” says Kathy Cloutier, Paper Excellence Director of Communications.
Northern Pulp and its parent company, Paper Excellence, are wholeheartedly committed to undertaking any and all measures within its ability to ensure a new treatment facility is operational by January 2020. Within the company’s pre-registration process, Northern Pulp is holding itself to the same standard of care that would be done in a Class 2. Scientific studies are being completed with rigour, and First Nations, community and stakeholder engagement is occurring throughout the study. Northern Pulp’s pre-registration process is being conducted over a period of approximately 210 days (winter 2017 – spring/summer 2018).
The responsibility to develop a new and better facility is one Northern Pulp takes seriously. While effluent has been discharged into the Northumberland Strait for 50 years, it is important to note that the effluent today is not the same as it was decades ago as there have been significant improvements over that time.
When developing the proposed plan for a new effluent pipeline, Northern Pulp designed the system with an engineered diffuser, a drastic improvement over the current discharge system. Additionally, in-mill improvement projects, including a $70-million Oxygen Delignification (O2 Delig) system, will further reduce the mill’s environmental footprint, providing a better effluent than that of today. The new outfall is designed to meet the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guidelines for effluent discharges, which stipulate that all effluent parameters of concern should meet background concentrations of the receiving water in less than 100 metres from the outfall.
Northern Pulp expects the effluent treatment facility replacement project’s Environmental Assessment Study will be complete and formally registered to NSE in early summer 2018. Two construction seasons are required to complete construction. Construction can only begin once approval of the Environmental Assessment by Nova Scotia Environment is received.
Northern Pulp is fully committed to working with government, Pictou Landing First Nation, neighbouring communities, as well as fishers in the Northumberland Strait, and will do so throughout the entire process in order to both share information and address concerns.
“Northern Pulp is, and will continue to meet the regulatory requirements set out by government through the Nova Scotia Department of Environment,” states Cloutier.
Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment facility replacement project team and mill employees look forward to continued engagement with the community in the months ahead, discussing ways to ensure sustainability for its industry and Pictou County for years to come.