They don’t want pulp effluent in the Northumberland Strait.
An alliance has been forged among the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA), the New Brunswick Fisheries Association and Pictou Landing First Nation.
Their purpose is to publicly and officially oppose the proposed discharge of Northern Pulp’s effluent into the Northumberland Strait – and to demand a federal environmental assessment into the matter.
The effluent is associated with the proposed disposal system for treated effluent from the pulp mill at Abercrombie Point, which includes an underwater pipeline going into the Northumberland Strait.
The proposed system is a replacement for the current treatment and disposal system in place at Boat Harbour, which is to be shut down in 2020.
The group has called for a federal assessment, noting that a great deal is at stake, because provincial economies and several First Nations communities depend on the Northumberland Strait being clean and healthy.
Information released from the group indicates that a great deal of the coastline of the Northumberland Strait is designated as a Maritime Protected Area by the Government of Canada, and that the proposed area for effluent discharge is also the location of several federal marine refuges.
Carl Allen, president of the Maritime Fishermen’s Association, asserted that an alternative land-based treatment system must be implemented, adding that it is “the only way to both create jobs at the mill and safeguard the health of Atlantic Canada’s key fisheries.”
Allen said that although the fishermen’s association supports jobs provided by Northern Pulp, “fisheries operating in the Northumberland Strait are also a crucial Atlantic Canada industry.”
Kathy Cloutier, director of communications with Paper Excellence, wrote that Northern Pulp and owner Paper Excellence will be undertaking “all measures within our ability” to ensure there is a new treatment facility in operation by January 2020.
“Currently there are fishing grounds reasonably close to the existing outfall which flows into the Northumberland Strait. There will be an engineered outfall, using a six-port diffuser that will disperse effluent released into the mixing zone,” wrote Cloutier in an email to The News. “Presently, there is no diffuser before the system discharges into the Northumberland Strait. The new system will make it so that the treated effluent, in part due to planned in-mill improvements, will be of better quality with a smaller environmental footprint than what is currently in place.”
Cloutier noted that there are 131 kraft mills operating in North America, and 20 operate on activated sludge treatment systems, while 80 per cent operate aerated stabilization basin systems.
“In both countries, no other treatment process is used to treat kraft mill effluent. Northern Pulp has thoroughly investigated treatment options available to bleached kraft mills,” wrote Cloutier. “Technical options available must include an outfall discharge in order for Northern Pulp to operate. The bottom line is no pipe equals no mill.”
The project has been identified by Nova Scotia Environment as a Class 1 project, however, regardless of whether the project is a Class 1 or Class 2, it is only after public and stakeholder consultation is carried out complete with concerns addressed, permitting and any additional studies that may be required, that this project can be officially registered with a submitted Environmental Impact Assessment.
Scientific studies are being completed with rigour, and First Nations, community and stakeholder engagement is occurring throughout the study.
The environmental assessment pre-registration process is currently being conducted over a period of approximately 210 days (winter 2017 to spring/summer 2018).
Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment facility replacement project team and mill employees say they look forward to continued engagement with the community in the months ahead.
Information released by the group opposing the pipeline in the strait alluded to “several federal-provincial infrastructure and economic development funds” that Northern Pulp and the provincial could look into, to develop an alternative effluent treatment and disposal system that doesn’t release anything into the strait.
“The federal and provincial governments are obligated to consult and accommodate with First Nations on natural resource projects,” reads a release from the group, referencing a finding of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia that the effluent treatment and disposal system at Boat Harbour “unjustly pollutes Pictou Landing First Nation communities and traditional fishing grounds in Boat Harbour.”
Chief Andrea Paul of Pictou Landing First Nation said a pipeline is “unacceptable,” and that the proposed disposal system simply “shifts the burden of pollution to the Northumberland Strait.
“The discharge pipe system would be a clear violation of the spirit and substance of the commitments made by the Government of Nova Scotia,” said Paul.
Ron Heighton, president of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, said the position of the groups remains “no pipe in the Strait… given the predictable negative environmental impacts of piping effluent into the Northumberland Strait.”
Specifically, Heighton said there would be toxins present in the effluent that are documented to produce potentially damaging effects to the fish species that spawn and live in the Northumberland Strait.
According to Bobby Jenkins, president of the PEIFA, the project belongs under federal jurisdiction – something that necessitates a federal environmental assessment.
“Our organizations have retained legal counsel and environmental consultants to inform us on this process,” said Jenkins.