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Northern Pulp must find new route for treated effluent pipe

This Marine Sidescan Sonar photo showing a collapsed pier on the Pictou harbour’s Pictou Landing side. The purple is Northern Pulp’s proposed pipeline route which will now have to be altered. - Contributed

Sonar study showed proposed location would not work

The route and outfall location for Northern Pulp’s proposed treated effluent pipe will not be able to go where the company initially planned.

Kathy Cloutier, Paper Excellence Director of Corporate Communications, confirmed Tuesday that the company will have to alter its plans after further testing revealed some problems with the planned route for the pipe which will carry treated effluent from a newly constructed effluent treatment facility at Abercrombie Point to the Northumberland Strait. This will delay when the company will be able to file the environmental assessment project registration needed before the project can go forward and could mean a significant increase in construction costs for the project. The company remains committed to the project, however.

The issues were identified as a result of a Marine Geotech and Habitat Assessment which was done in April, May and June. This testing involves getting sonar images along the proposed route and is required for detailed engineering of the effluent line, Cloutier said.

The assessment found that the planned route was closer to a shipwreck in the Pictou Harbour than the company initially believed. There is also a collapsed pier that would be in the way of the planned route. Further complicating matters are ice scours in the area outside the mouth of Pictou Harbour where the proposed outfall location was. Ice scours are essentially large pieces of ice that scrape along the ocean bottom, Cloutier said. While they wouldn’t affect the pipe itself which will be protected by rock, they could cause damage to the outfall diffuser.

“Data collected requires us to consider a new, deeper outfall location to substantially mitigate the risk of ice damage,” she said.

This summer the company will be doing additional testing to find the best new route using sonar, habitat assessment and core sampling.

Cloutier said they don’t know when they’ll be able to file their environmental assessment project registration which they initially planned to file around July, but expects it would need to happen by the fall in order for them to be able to complete construction in time for the January 2020 deadline the province has set for the closure of the existing Boat Harbour Treatment Facility.

“We’ve always said that it’s a tight deadline,” Cloutier said. “Anything that extends that filing makes it even tighter.”

A later filing will mean a significant increase in costs for the construction of the project because more work will need to be done in winter, but Cloutier said Northern Pulp’s commitment to the community and the environment will not change.

“We’re not going to compromise by filing a document that doesn’t include the information needed. That’s our commitment,” she said.

Northern Pulp has been working with numerous federal and provincial agencies since April 2017 to make sure that this project meets all requirements and will work to find a new location that will satisfy environmental concerns.

The plans for the treatment facility itself remain unchanged and detailed engineering is expected to wrap up over the summer.

“It’s tried and true technology,” Cloutier said.

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