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Officials with Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County, N.S., testify before P.E.I. standing committee

Representatives of the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County, N.S., made a presentation Friday to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries. From left, are Guy Martin, consultant, Bruce Chapman, general manager, and Terri Fraser, technical manager.
Representatives of the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County, N.S., made a presentation Friday to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries. From left, are Guy Martin, consultant, Bruce Chapman, general manager, and Terri Fraser, technical manager. - Dave Stewart

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The general manager of a kraft mill that wants to build a new treatment facility in Pictou County said there will be less effluent flowing into the Northumberland Strait and it will be of better quality.

Bruce Chapman appeared Friday before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries.

“The effluent that the new system will produce, along with the in-mill improvements, will be of better quality with a smaller environmental footprint than it is now,’’ Chapman told the media following a two-hour meeting with the standing committee.

Chapman also explained that the technology currently doesn’t exist to operate a closed loop system where the effluent simply goes back into the plant.

“We looked at a closed loop system, as have many people, around the world throughout the years. It is not possible because of some of the minor minerals and the chlorides in the effluent. These are very similar to minerals and chlorides already existing in the salt water, so it’s not a matter of the effluent being harmful to the environment as it is the effluent being harmful to our process.’’

The province of Nova Scotia built the Boat Harbour effluent treatment site in 1972. For the five years prior to that, the mill’s former owners had just been dumping untreated effluent nearby.

However, Chapman was adamant that the effluent has been treated for years since then, using an aerated stabilization basin that is used in about 70 per cent of the kraft mills now.

“It really is a 1990s system that was upgraded and discharged as effluent through Boat Harbour into the Northumberland Strait.’’

“Best solution for whom? The best solution for the company . . . the environment . . . the fishers? That’s what we need answered.’’
-Belfast-Murray River MLA Darlene Compton

Some MLAs wanted to know why the plant simply can’t pump the effluent into Pictou Harbour rather than Northumberland Strait.

Chapman explained that the harbour doesn’t have the flow to meet guidelines.

“It must meet background concentrations, in other words at 100 metres you must not be able to tell there is effluent there. In order to do that we had to move it outside the harbour because of the lack of flow through the harbour,’’ he said.

Liberal MLA Alan McIsaac suggested they get the federal government on board and build a pipeline to the Atlantic Ocean and dump it there.

“We need to know that the (P.E.I.) fishery is not going to be harmed in any way, shape or form,’’ McIsaac said. “Our fishery is globally recognized as a pure food and it means a lot of dollars to our economy. My biggest concern is the effect of the effluent on the fishery.’’

Fraser said they will do their absolute best to ensure the provinces of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. are satisfied, as well as the fisheries in the two provinces.

An environmental study is ongoing now and should be submitted to the Nova Scotia government this summer.

Belfast-Murray River MLA Darlene Compton said her constituents have listed a number of concerns, from the temperature of the water released to the volume that’s being released into the strait.

“We want to ensure whatever system is going in is the very best for fishing and tourism and all industry,’’ Compton said.

When asked if she feels better that Chapman said the new system will be much better than the current one, Compton responded “best solution for whom? The best solution for the company . . . the environment . . . the fishers? That’s what we need answered.’’

Compton added that she prefers an environmental assessment that is more detailed than rushed.

Twitter.com/DveStewart

FAST FACTS

  • Northern Pulp manufactures 280,000 tonnes of kraft pulp annually
  • It’s used to make household products such as tissue, paper towel, toilet paper, writing and photo copy paper
  • With more than 300 employees, it generates more than $200 million annually to the Nova Scotia economy
  • Its forest nursery produces and ships about six million seedlings annually
  • The plant supplies an additional one million seedlings to other forest companies in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick each year

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