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Friends of Northumberland Strait say Iain Rankin hasn’t done his homework on pulp effluent

PICTOU — A citizens group in Pictou County is urging the environment minister to do more homework with regards to Northern Pulp.

Friends of the Northumberland Strait (FONS) want Iain Rankin to understand how the mill’s proposed new effluent treatment plan could impact the Northumberland Strait.

FONS points to Rankin’s response to a concerned citizen as an indication that the minister needs to learn more.

In a response letter to a concerned citizen, whose name has been blacked out from the copy received by The Advocate, Rankin writes: “I am sure you are aware that the effluent from the pulp mill has been treated by the Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility and then discharged into the Northumberland Strait for the last 50 years. Another treatment option is needed to ensure that the Boat Harbour facility will close by 2020.”

Jill Graham Scanlan, a FONS member said, “It’s as if you said to your doctor, ‘I’ve been smoking for 20 years and I don’t have cancer,’ and the doctor said, ‘Well then, I guess there is no harm if you keep on smoking’.”

FONS has prepared a document titled 50 Years of Pulp Effluent to provide the minister, his staff and the public with detailed information on how Northern Pulp’s proposed new effluent treatment facility poses increased risks to the Strait and its prime fishing grounds.

The detailed backgrounder looks at four key issues:

1) Whether harm is already being done by pulp effluent;

2) How the proposed new system could discharge more harmful effluent than is currently entering the Northumberland Strait;

3) The greater risk to fisheries of the proposed new discharge point; and

4) Increasing stresses on the ocean environment, which means that the impact of releasing pulp effluent into ocean waters will be greater now and in coming decades than the same effluent would have been 50 or 25 years ago in healthier oceans.

In a cover letter to the minister FONS states, “We hope that after reading this backgrounder you will refrain from issuing further statements implying that Northern Pulp’s new proposal is of no greater risk to the fishing areas of the Northumberland Strait than the present treatment facility. This is a key issue that the environmental assessment process has yet to resolve.”

Graham Scanlan notes, “Such statements from (Rankin’s office) reinforce existing doubts that the environmental assessment process will be fair and unbiased.”

The group makes it clear that its members fully support the closure of the Boat Harbour treatment facility and the cleanup of Boat Harbour on schedule.

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