N.S. government says Northern Pulp wastewater will flow into Boat Harbour past deadline

Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters that allowing boiler wastewater into Boat Harbour after Jan. 31 will not breach Boat Harbour Act

Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) is disappointed that materials from the Northern Pulp mill will continue to flow into Boat Harbour past Jan. 31.

While the mill will shut down at the end of the month, a boiler will continue to operate to maintain temperatures inside the mill over the winter months. Water from the boiler will flush into Boat Harbour until about April.

Last month, Premier Stephen McNeil announced the province would enforce the Boat Harbour Act and refuse an extension to Northern Pulp, restricting further effluent from entering into Boat Harbour. The decision will force the pulp mill to cease current operations by Jan. 31, 2020, the deadline designated in 2015.

Northern Pulp is working on an environmental assessment process for a proposed effluent treatment plant to resume operations at a future date.

In a news release Tuesday, PLFN said they had not agreed to allow Northern Pulp to keep using the Boat Harbour treatment facility after the designated deadline and they were not consulted.

“We were expecting a complete shutdown of the Boat Harbour treatment facility,” PLFN Chief Andrea Paul said in the release.

Paul was told the province wanted to avoid further contamination from frozen pipes bursting and releasing materials contained in the mill.

“Northern Pulp could have started draining the pipes weeks ago in order to complete the work  before Jan. 31 and avoid the need to heat the mill after that,” she added.

During a news conference held hours after PLFN issued its statement, Premier Stephen McNeil said the boiler must continue running to avoid “another environmental situation.”

Premier Stephen McNeil at a press conference at 1 Government Place
Premier Stephen McNeil answers questions from reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.   Dayne Patterson

McNeil said these activities will not breach the terms of the Boat Harbour Act, which states that Northern Pulp will no longer dump effluent into the tidal estuary.

“There will be no new effluent going into Boat Harbour as of [Jan. 31],” McNeil explained.

The wastewater from the boiler will run through a pipe owned by the province. It will flush out materials inside the pipe into Boat Harbour and allow the province to remove the pipe by the end of April.

McNeil emphasized the importance of removing the pipe to restrict future governments or businesses from using Boat Harbour without consent from PLFN.

The provincial government is expecting a detailed plan this week outlining how Northern Pulp will deal with environmental issues. The plan will include how the company will remove leachate from an onsite disposal, as well as how to cap the treatment facility and manhole covers to restrict contaminants from entering Boat Harbour.

Despite McNeil’s insistence that the province will not breach the Boat Harbour Act, PLFN spokesperson Heather Head said in a phone interview that “we have reached out to our lawyer asking if this is in violation of the act.”

Meanwhile, Paul said in her PLFN statement that she was frustrated. She added the community was planning a ceremony to celebrate the remediation of Boat Harbour, but wasn’t sure how to digest this new information.

The Signal contacted Northern Pulp for a reply to concerns raised by PLFN, but did not receive a response by the end of the day.

Dayne Patterson

Dayne Patterson

Dayne Patterson is a journalism student enrolled in the graduate program at the University of King's College. He lived and reported in Western Canada before moving to the east coast. Now, you can find him in Halifax searching for ice to skate on, floors to dance on and new stories to write about.

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