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Northern Pulp: N.S. order could cause site to emit odour

May 21, 2020  By Kristina Urquhart

Northern Pulp. Photo © Murdo Ferguson/Paper ExcellencePhoto © Murdo Ferguson/Paper Excellence

Northern Pulp says it is “disappointed” by the province of Nova Scotia’s revised ministerial order last week governing the shutdown of the Abercrombie-based mill.

In a statement, Paper Excellence Canada, the mill’s parent company, says the terms of the May 14 order indicate the province does not understand the way effluent treatment facilities operate.

“It also imposes obligations on Northern Pulp that it is not responsible for and has not agreed to accept,” the statement reads.


The order prohibits the mill from sending clean water into Boat Harbour, which Paper Excellence says could decrease the total amount of water in the lagoons and cause odours.

The company also says that since Boat Harbour is not receiving discharge from the mill, contaminants from outside sources may compromise its ability to comply with the order. (Read the full order here.)

Paper Excellence says the company is still reviewing the final terms of reference for the province’s required environmental assessment and whether it will be able to proceed with the conditions.

Full statement below

The full statement from Paper Excellence is as follows:

“Northern Pulp is disappointed with the ministerial order issued by Nova Scotia Environment on May 14, 2020 for management of the Northern Pulp site during its hibernation. Since the mill ceased production on January 12, Northern Pulp has worked cooperatively with Nova Scotia Environment on the safe and environmentally sound hibernation of the facility. However, the new Ministerial Order imposes terms and conditions in addition to those in the January 2020 Ministerial Order that are impractical and show a lack of understanding of the pulp and paper industry and effluent treatment facilities. It also imposes obligations on Northern Pulp that it is not responsible for and has not agreed to accept.

‘The Ministerial Order is supposed to protect the receiving environment,’ said Graham Kissack, vice-president health, safety, environment, and communications, speaking on behalf of Northern Pulp. ‘In fact, it will probably do the opposite and cause septicity in Boat Harbour with odour emissions.’ Northern Pulp raised the risk of septicity with Nova Scotia Environment in January and provided recommendations to effectively mitigate it.

The new Ministerial Order prevents Northern Pulp from discharging even clean, fresh water from the mill to the effluent treatment facility. That absence of water flow will likely contribute to lower water levels and septic conditions causing odour which impacts neighbouring communities including the Pictou Landing First Nation. Kissack added, ‘It’s quite simple, without sufficient aeration and water, the site will generate odour.’

The second area of concern is that the Ministerial Order burdens Northern Pulp with meeting compliance limits on the water discharges from Boat Harbour into Northumberland Strait. Today, now that Northern Pulp is not operating, the vast majority of water entering Boat Harbour and subsequently being discharged is unrelated to the mill. Those waters come from surface flows outside its eight-kilometre perimeter that could contain any number of substances unrelated to Northern Pulp. A simple rainstorm event that releases land-based sediments could elevate water turbidity causing compliance problems.

Kissack questioned, ‘How can we take responsibility for something that has nothing to do with our operation?’

Moving forward, Paper Excellence and Northern Pulp are continuing to review the final Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference for the proposed effluent treatment facility modernization at Northern Pulp to determine if it provides a workable path forward.

‘We want to continue being a contributing member of the community. We believe that we can work together with all governments and community members to achieve environmental goals while creating investment, job growth, and innovation in Nova Scotia,’ said Kissack.

The modernization and restart of the mill would re-establish more than 300 well-paying direct mill jobs in Pictou County and more than 2,500 forestry sector jobs throughout the province. Northern Pulp has contributed more than $250 million annually into Nova Scotia’s economy since 2011, including approximately $100 million spent procuring forestry and wood services and products within the province.”

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