Canadian Manufacturing

Nova Scotia premier to decide fate of pulp mill that supports thousands of jobs

It's been five almost years since the Northern Pulp mill was asked to stop pumping wastewater into lagoons – but the company is asking for more time

December 20, 2019  The Canadian Press

HALIFAX – The premier of Nova Scotia is expected to issue a decision today on the fate of an aging pulp mill that supports thousands of jobs across the province.

Almost five years ago, Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government passed a law that says the Northern Pulp mill near Pictou, N.S., must stop pumping wastewater into lagoons near an Indigenous community by Jan. 31, 2020 – but the company is asking for more time.

The company, owned by B.C.-based Paper Excellence, has submitted plans to build a pipeline to pump 85 million litres of treated effluent daily into the Northumberland Strait.

But the government has twice told the company it failed to provide enough science-based evidence to allow for a proper assessment of the potential impact on human health and the environment.

On Thursday, the mill owners repeated their warning that the operation will be shut down unless the premier extends the legislated deadline and grants approval for the continued flow of effluent into Boat Harbour, which is next to the Pictou Landing First Nation.

Former Nova Scotia environment minister Iain Rankin once referred to the toxic mess as one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.

The company issued a statement earlier this year, bluntly stating: “No pipe equals no mill.” In response, McNeil has said: “The deadline is the deadline.”

More than 300 people work at the mill, and an estimated 2,400 jobs in the forestry sector are tied to its fate.

Fishermen in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick say the pipeline will hurt the local lobster fishery, as well as other smaller fishing enterprises.

Some residents in nearby Pictou, who have long complained about the mill’s recurring stench, have said the pipeline could hurt tourism along the picturesque strait between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

Paper Excellence says it has run out of options, noting that 80 per cent of the kraft pulp mills in North American use a lagoon system similar to the one at Boat Harbour – and the other 20 per cent use a facility like the one in its latest proposal.