Northern Pulp filed its answers Wednesday to a long list of questions from the Department of Environment about its proposed effluent treatment facility.
After the mill registered its controversial plan for treating its effluent last winter for an environmental assessment the province responded with a list of 35 questions.
The focus report filed on Wednesday constitutes the mill’s answers to the province’s requirements, which include:
- A new route for the proposed pipe from the mill to Caribou that doesn't follow along the shoulder of Highway 106 in accordance with demands from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
- A complete physical and chemical characterization of both Northern Pulp's raw effluent and the treated effluent that will be discharged 4.1 kilometres out into the Northumberland Strait.
- Baseline studies on the water into which the effluent will go and update the receiving water study with data on potential contaminants from the proposed treatment system.
- Additional assessments on the impact of treated effluent on fish.
- A human health risk assessment that must consider consumption of fish and other seafood, potentially contaminated drinking water, exposure to recreational water and sediment, outdoor air inhalation, and any other potential exposure pathways.
The filing of the focus report kicks off another set of timelines in a process that has been racing against the province’s self-imposed deadline of Jan. 31 for the closure of the existing effluent treatment facility at Boat Harbour.
The Department of Environment now has 14 days to make the focus report available to the public. Once that happens, there will be a 30-day public consultation period for people and groups to respond. Environment Minister Gordon Wilson then has another 39 days to make a decision on whether to allow the project to proceed.
According to Northern Pulp, the focus report contains, along with other data:
- An updated air contaminant emissions assessment that shows the mill would not exceed Ontario regulations (Nova Scotia not having set limits).
- Reassessment of potential freshwater fish and habitat impacts from the laying of the pipe that will carry an average of 64 million litres of treated effluent a day to a discharge in the Northumberland Strait.
- Studies showing that effluent discharge into the Northumberland Strait won’t have a negative impact on fish or fish habitat.
“With the introduction of this proposed state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility, Northern Pulp’s environmental footprint is significantly reduced with forestry and fishing industries continuing to coexist and a negative environmental legacy that has tarnished the region ends; allowing community healing and rebuilding to begin,” reads the Northern Pulp statement.
Allan MacCarthy isn’t so optimistic.
The Caribou fisherman and member of the Northern Pulp working group, consisting of fishermen from the three Maritime provinces and the Pictou Landing First Nation, contends that the mill hasn’t been as transparent as it claims.
“The government suggested in the focus report that (the mill) should be consulting with stakeholders and releasing studies when they’re completed so we would have time to scrutinize them,” said MacCarthy.
“If they’re really interested in being good community citizens then they should have given us more time.”
He also is doubtful that the focus report is a thorough response to the government’s recommendations.
“We don’t believe this project can meet an environmental assessment,” said MacCarthy.
“We’re also very skeptical whether this is a complete focus report because there were studies that should have taken longer (than the six months Northern Pulp took) to complete this report.”