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Ottawa commits $100 million to Boat Harbour remediation project


The Northern Pulp mill is seen in Abercrombie Point in 2014, with the Town of Pictou in the background. - Christian Laforce
The Northern Pulp mill is seen in Abercrombie Point in 2014, with the Town of Pictou in the background. - Christian Laforce
PICTOU LANDING, N.S. —

The Pictou Landing First Nation is one step closer to seeing Boat Harbour returned to its natural state.

The federal government announced Thursday it will contribute $100 million to the remediation of the tidal estuary.

“If I could sum it up in one word, it would be reconciliation,” said Chief Andrea Paul.

“It validates the work that we have been doing as a community, and I think it really just puts that reassurance that both levels of government have listened and taken our concerns seriously.”

The Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility, owned by the province and leased to the Northern Pulp kraft mill, is legislated to close in January. For more than 50 years, the Pictou Landing Mi’kmaq community has lived next to the lagoon where the mill’s effluent is treated.

The estimated cost of the remediation project is $217 million with the province of Nova Scotia picking up the balance.

“When we do estimations of costs for remediation, we learn more as we do our planning work,” said Ken Swain, the program director for the Boat Harbour project.

“It’s not like building a house where at the start you can accurately estimate the cost,” he said.

Swain says that the pilot-scale work has started in an area of Boat Harbour that workers have sectioned off. This stage is meant to mimic what full-scale remediation of the site will look like, providing information which will allow for a more refined estimation for bidders when the project goes to tender.

“We’d like to be faced with all the problems that we’re going to be faced with now, rather than later,” said Swain. “We’re learning from it and that’s the purpose.”

Swain told The News that the pilot scale work will likely be wrapped up at the end of June and that the work may be completed by 2025.

“We’re not really driven by schedule,” Swain said. “Our concern is making sure we get it right. So we don’t want to hurry the process.”

The $100 million comes through the bilateral infrastructure agreement between the provincial and federal governments. When asked if the federal government would be willing to add more funding should the cost of remediation go up, Central Nova MP Sean Fraser said that would be contingent on future applications for funding.

“Right now, we know it’s going to be $100 million, but I don’t want to speculate on what might happen years from now when other people might be in this office.”

Fraser told reporters that the investment is not contingent on the outcomes of the next election.

“This has been approved by the federal Treasury Board. There’s no question this funding is locked in and it’s going to be used for the remediation and restoration of Boat Harbour,” he said.

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