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'Challenges ahead': Northern Pulp committed to staying in Pictou County despite timeline crunch

Northern Pulp in Abercrombie. File
Northern Pulp in Abercrombie. File

ABERCROMBIE POINT

Paper Excellence says it's still committed to a future in Pictou County.

Despite vocal opposition to its proposed plans for a replacement treatment facility that would pipe treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait, an ever-narrowing window to get the project complete before the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility is mandated to close and even though Paper Excellence has just purchased three pulp mills out west that produce a similar product, the company has no plans on pulling out of Pictou County, says Kathy Cloutier, director of corporate communications.

“Paper Excellence executives, Northern Pulp management and those designated on the Effluent Treatment Facility Replacement Project are committed to this project, Northern Pulp and its future,” she said.

Over the summer, Cloutier said the company has tried to listen to the concerns about the original proposed route and have developed one that is more land-based but will still discharge treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait.

All bleached kraft pulp mills in the world require a similar discharge, she says.

On Oct. 21, the company presented the alternate route to Pictou Landing First Nation and local fishermen, as well as its own employees, but there is still no timeline on when the project will be filed with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment.

Cloutier said the company is still not sure whether it will go with a modified version of the original proposed route - which would have had an outfall in the Pictou Road area - or if it will use the new route, which empties off of Caribou Point.

Until that is decided, Northern Pulp won’t be able to finalize a timeline on when the project is filed for environmental approval.

RELATED: Ripple effect: Forestry industry anxiously watching Northern Pulp developments, fear potential impacts on sector

Can it be done before January 2020?

If the province sticks with its commitment to close the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility by January 2020, that leaves just over a year for Northern Pulp to have a new treatment facility up and running so it can continue operation without interruption. Because of the microorganisms used in the effluent treatment process, starting in the cold of winter would not be ideal, so the facility would need to be operational ahead of that date.

“With respect to that timeline, we are absolutely aware of the challenges ahead,” Cloutier said.

Asked if the company will ask the provincial government for an extension on the closure of Boat Harbour, Cloutier said Northern Pulp is not at that point and that the target it's working with is still January 2020.

Purchase of western mills unrelated

On Oct. 9, Paper Excellence Canada announced that it had entered into an agreement to buy Catalyst Paper Corporation, including its three pulp mills located in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River, B.C.

"This announcement is a continued step towards Paper Excellence's long-term growth plan within Canada and the province,” Brian Baarda, Paper Excellence chief executive officer said at the time. “With this acquisition, Paper Excellence is clearly demonstrating its commitment to British Columbia.”

But rather than signalling a shift in Paper Excellence’s interest from east to west, Cloutier said people should view it as a commitment to Canada as a whole by the Chinese-owned company.

“It’s the opposite in terms of the commitment to Nova Scotia,” she said. “It’s reinforcing Paper Excellence's commitment to Canada and to Nova Scotia.”

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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