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LETTER: Tragic legacy for our children

The tragic legacy of Northern Pulp has resulted from the extremely poor decision making by governments, past and present. Successive mill owners, including the current owners, have not invested heavily to modernize the plant consistent with current technology.
Much has been written over the last few years about its air emissions and more recently about Boat Harbour handling the water effluent.
When the mill was built in the 1960s the government agreed to be responsible for the treatment of the liquid waste – a commitment still in place for the current owner, until 2030. I am not aware of another mill in North America where taxpayers cover costs for effluent treatment. This is a hidden taxpayer subsidy paid to the mill.
The current government has committed to stop the use of the Boat Harbour facility by 2020 and then to remediate the site.
Between 2020 and 2030 the government remains responsible for  
water effluent treatment while the mill continues in operation.
The proposed effluent treatment system with discharge into the Northumberland Strait, would mean settleable material from the effluent having high potential to negatively affect a key fishery. The mill may invest in a process called oxygen delignification which may improve the quality of about 15 per cent of the waste effluent stream. Settleable solids are currently discharged into Boat Harbour Basin, which is devoid of living organisms. The Boat Harbour Replacement Project is to replace the 300-acre Boat Harbour Basin with the Northumberland Strait.
The widespread opposition to discharging into a fishery habitat includes "No Pulp Waste in our Water" signs abounding in the area and a protest rally planned for early July.
Northern Pulp has sent out flyers stating "No Pipe, No Mill” referring to the potential loss of jobs at the mill and in the woodlands. The potential for conflict is high considering what is at stake on both sides.
This legacy of misguided government decision making means a huge cost to taxpayers:
1. Loss of use of Boat Harbour and surrounding area by Pictou Landing First Nations for several decades.
2. Remediation of Boat Harbour project at more than $500 million.
3. If the government, by not providing an acceptable waste water treatment facility, forces the mill to close, the government in all likelihood is liable for Northern Pulp's loss of profits from 2020 to 2030. 
4. If the government can propose an acceptable replacement for Boat Harbour, the taxpayer bears the construction and operating costs – above the $100 million mark.
5. Air emission and water effluent impacts on the environment and health in the region are real but not quantified with public credibility. Recent studies on these impacts by Dalhousie University have been quietly muted by non-disclosure agreements by government.
Poor decision making by governments past and present has created millions of dollars in liability as well as environmental, social and health impacts. There is no apparent clear path forward. The current government has a vested interest for a minimum investment for facilities replacing Boat Harbour and that option conflicts with an environmentally acceptable solution for the fishery.
A mill closure triggers a legal liability contest for loss of profits as well as the potential cost for taxpayers for site demolition/remediation and the loss of jobs.
Boat Harbour remediation will take years and cost hundreds of millions. Tax payers to date have spent millions on the mill .
At what total cost to the taxpayers and future generations of Nova Scotians are the health, environmental and socio-economic impacts created by the mill ?
Rod Desborough

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