Skip to main content

Canada Nova Scotia pulp mill asks for one-year extension on alternative plan for controversial wastewater site

The Northern Pulp mill in Pictou, N.S. is pictured on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

The operator of a pulp and paper mill at the centre of a continuing controversy in Pictou, N.S., has asked the provincial government to allow it an extra year of dumping the mill’s wastewater next to the territory of a local First Nation.

Northern Pulp, a bleached kraft paper mill, has until January of 2020 to come up with an alternative to discharging its wastewater at Boat Harbour, a traditional fishing ground of the Pictou Landing First Nation. A provincial law designed to put an end to pollution at Boat Harbour – known as one of Nova Scotia’s worst environmental disasters – mandated the stop back in 2015. The harbour, an inlet off the Northumberland Strait, is contaminated with dioxins, mercury, heavy metals and other substances.

We’ve been pitted against each other’: How a proposed pulp-mill discharge pipe is tearing a Nova Scotia town apart

At a press conference in Halifax Thursday morning, executives from the mill said the company is making progress on a new wastewater plan but needs an extra year beyond the 2020 deadline to complete construction of a new treatment facility.

Story continues below advertisement

“We simply need a bit more time to ensure the time and due diligence to carry out each phase,” said Kathy Cloutier, a spokesperson for Northern Pulp.

Executives stopped short of saying the mill, which employs about 300 full-time workers, would shut down if the deadline is not granted, but they implied its operations would be compromised.

“We will not operate illegally under the Boat Harbour Act,” said Ms. Cloutier.

The act prohibits discharging of any wastewater after January of 2020; the mill cannot operate without discharging that effluent somewhere.

Ms. Cloutier said the mill is prepared to begin construction on a new treatment facility as soon as the province approves the company’s plan – and before any deadline extension is granted.

“We believe we will get that extension,” Ms. Cloutier said. “The science is tried and true. We believe in this project.”

Under the mill’s new plan, treated wastewater would be discharged directly into the Strait, a lucrative and beloved fishing ground for fishermen across three provinces.

Story continues below advertisement

Controversy over this plan has bitterly divided Pictou and the communities that surround it. While millworkers and the forestry industry support the plan, numerous protests have been held by groups uniting fishermen, concerned citizens and members of Pictou Landing. They are united in their opposition to any pipe in the Strait.

Pictou Landing held a press conference Thursday morning to mark the one-year countdown to January of 2020 and the closure of Boat Harbour.

Brian Hebert, a lawyer for the Indigenous band, said they are unlikely to agree to any compromise involving an extension of dumping permissions at Boat Harbour. “There is no appetite for that,” he said. “They don’t want money. They want to clean things up. They are very concerned about their fishing grounds,” he said.

Ms. Cloutier said the mill and Pictou Landing “have the same goal. That is to see Boat Harbour returned to its natural state. We just need more time.”

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter