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Houston on Boat Harbour cleanup: ‘People just want to know it’s going to get done right’


The Northern Pulp mill is seen in Abercrombie in 2017. - The Canadian Press
The Northern Pulp mill. FILE

PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. 

PC Leader and Pictou East MLA Tim Houston says he’s glad to see that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is looking for public input on whether a federal environmental assessment is required for the proposed Boat Harbour Remediation Project, but questions why the same level of scrutiny hasn’t – at least to date – been given to the plans to build a new treatment facility on Abercrombie Point. 

The federal agency is now in the public consultation portion of that process and is seeking comments from the public and Indigenous groups on the project and its potential effects on the environment, as described in the summary of the project description. People have until Jan. 27 to submit a comment. 

If the agency determines a federal assessment is required, it could be a fairly lengthy process. 

According to the agency, a federal environmental assessment must be completed within a year. But time taken by the proponent (in this case Nova Scotia Lands) to complete its work or provide information is not included within the 365-day timeline. 

The project will also undergo a Class II environmental assessment at the provincial level. Class II undertakings are typically larger in scale and are considered to have the potential to cause significant environmental impacts and concern to the public. These undertakings require an environmental assessment report and formal public review which may include hearings. 

In April 2018, Environment Minister Iain Rankin said his department determined a Class II process is necessary for the cleanup project because of its size and multiple contaminants in the soil and water. 

Boat Harbour Remediation project lead Ken Swain has said that if a federal assessment is required, it could delay the start of the cleanup. 

Houston believes that if the public wants a federal assessment though, it would be worth the wait. 

“There could be a delay in the cleanup if the feds get involved, but I think that people just want to know it’s going to get done right.” 

He wishes the same scrutiny would be applied for the new treatment facility. 

“The new treatment facility definitely requires a higher level of scrutiny than a Class I,” he said.  

In the past he has called for a Class II provincial assessment. 

NDP Environment spokesperson Lenore Zann also issued a statement expressing similar sentiment. 

 “The federal government is looking for comments from the public about the planned cleanup of Boat Harbour,  but they also need to be looking at what Northern Pulp has to put in place to replace Boat Harbour when it closes," she stated. “Fishers, Indigenous groups, tourism operators, and the broader community are worried about what an effluent pipe in the Northumberland Strait would mean for our environment. The Federal government has a duty to ensure a project of this nature does not move forward without thorough review.” 

 Houston says he also has no information now that would make him believe that Northern Pulp should be granted an extension on their use of the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility, which is scheduled to close by Jan. 31, 2020. 

“It’s been almost four years since the bill was passed and Northern Pulp hasn’t filed an application yet," he said. “There’s no new information to base an extension on.” 

When the legislation to close Boat Harbour was first introduced, Houston said he had submitted an amendment proposing a timeline for certain steps in the process to be met, but it was rejected. He believes if the government had included it, the situation wouldn’t be where it’s at today. 

"How much time has passed with so little movement. It’s not good.” 

COMMENTING ON THE BOAT HARBOUR REMEDIATION PROJECT 

Written comments in either official language must be submitted by January 27, 2019 to:  

Boat Harbour Remediation Project 

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency  

200-1801 Hollis Street   

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3N4   

Telephone: 902-426-0564   

Email: CEAA.BoatHabour.ACEE@canada.ca

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