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Northern Pulp survey boat blocked by fishing boats leaves Caribou without completing work

The Boat Harbour treatment site processes waste water from the Northern Pulp mill, seen in the background. - File

The survey boat contracted by Northern Pulp has left Caribou without finishing its work.

The boat had been contracted to map the bottom for a proposed new route for Northern Pulp’s effluent pipe.

Depending on who you ask, it may have left due to coming weather or because the vessel was repeatedly blocked from doing its work by a flotilla of local fisherman.

“Upcoming weather is not favorable for the team or equipment,” said Kathy Cloutier, spokeswoman for Northern Pulp’s parent company Paper Excellence.

Since its arrival last week, the boat has tried repeatedly to leave the wharf in Caribou to do bottom surveys that would inform the environmental assessment for a new effluent treatment facility that Northern Pulp plans to register by January.

Each time it was met by a fleet of local fishing boats towing gear that could foul up its propeller. After 28 fishing boats surrounded it Monday morning, the survey boat left the area.

“There was a lot of gear in front of it,” said Caribou fisherman Allan McCarthy on Tuesday.

“We’re allowed to fish. We were fishing, not catching.”

McCarthy said that fishermen will be vigilant for its return.

“There will be boats in the water here until there’s ice,” said McCarthy.

“After that we will have our ear to the ice too. I don’t think you could sneak a survey boat into this area right now.”

The failure to even access the area of water into which it intends to install an effluent outfall is the latest blow for Northern Pulp.

Last week it admitted that due to delays finding a new outfall location it would likely miss the provincially mandated Jan. 31, 2020 closure of the existing effluent treatment plant at Boat Harbor.

“Fortunately this entire area is one that is heavily studied with available data that will be part of information relied on,” said Cloutier.

“The environmental assessment registration document will be filed in January with all available data.”

The new proposed route would see Northern Pulp’s treated effluent piped from the mill at Abercrombie Point, alongside a causeway, through the Town of Pictou’s watershed and then out into the water near the Northumberland Ferries terminal at Caribou.

The pipe would continue about four kilometres out into the Northumberland Strait, where diffusers would emit the effluent.

Fishermen, along with the Pictou Landing First Nation, have been adamant that they will not allow any outlet into the Northumberland Strait.

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