To the editor,
Recently Northern Pulp hired Dale Paterson, a past VP of Paper Excellence, to meet with selected stakeholders in Pictou County. Mr. Paterson told Friends of the Northumberland Strait (FONS) and others that Northern Pulp wanted to understand what went wrong and how the company could move forward.
Rather than meet with Mr. Paterson behind closed doors, FONS decided to share our response publicly, by way of this open letter.
FONS felt there was no benefit in meeting with Mr. Paterson when we have already spent many long hours answering exactly these questions. The answers Northern Pulp is looking for can be found in hundreds of pages of comments submitted in response to Northern Pulp’s Focus Report from our organization, from fishermen and other members of the public, from government departments and from scientists and professionals in many fields, including engineers, chemists, fisheries biologists, and marine ecologists.
Northern Pulp, if you truly want to understand what went wrong, FONS suggests that that you study those submissions carefully. You need to understand the Northumberland Strait. You need to recognize what is unique about its shallow waters, its tides and currents and the rich ecosystem it supports. You need to understand why we have said from Day 1, and continue to say, there can be no effluent pipe in the Strait.
Northern Pulp, if you truly want to know how you can fix things to move forward, here are a few suggestions for a start:
Don’t pretend there is not a valuable commercial fishery exactly where you plan to release 60-80 million litres of bleached kraft effluent every day. Someone will notice.
Don’t pretend that the effluent will “disappear”, when it contains contaminants known to persist and accumulate in the environment. Someone will notice.
Don’t pretend that your effluent discharge point is not located in an area established to protect juvenile lobster, Scallop Buffer Zone 24. Someone will notice.
When you are required to provide “full chemical characterization” of your influent (what goes into the effluent treatment system) and your effluent, (what comes out of the system), don’t avoid answering the question. Someone will notice. They will notice even if you take out many advertisements claiming your effluent will be the best in the world.
When you are asked to show the impact of releasing effluent over the life of the project, 20 years or more, don’t model the effects only for a one-month period. Someone will notice.
Don’t pretend that burying four kilometres of effluent pipe in Caribou Harbour under two metres of seabed in an area with strong winds and tides will be enough protection from ice damage, when ice scour more than four metres deep has been recorded just a short distance away. Someone will notice.
Don’t pretend that a community is over-reacting when they are concerned about the possibility of treated effluent leaking into the town’s watershed, when you had a pipe leak of 47 million litres in 2014 , and another in 2018, which is still under investigation. Both times the leaks were discovered by neighbors, although you were required to have a system in place so that you would know immediately when a leak took place. People did notice those leaks. They have not forgotten.
Don’t pretend the goalposts for approving your project moved. The goalposts are exactly where they have always been. The environmental assessment legislation is clear. You need to be able to show, based on science, that your proposal will not cause adverse effects or significant environmental effects that cannot be mitigated.
Northern Pulp, you have had two tries and you still have not provided that evidence. A lot of people noticed.
Friends of the Northumberland Strait will continue to engage with the environmental assessment process. Our concerns have not been answered. Actually, the science shows our concerns are completely justified. Be assured, we remain committed to protecting the Northumberland Strait and the industries and communities that rely on a clean and healthy marine ecosystem, now and in the future.
President, Friends of the Northumberland Strait