Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller has until March 29 to decide whether a newly-submitted plan for Northern Pulp to manage a replacement effluent treatment facility and a controversial underwater discharge pipeline is acceptable.
In 600-plus pages of documents submitted for environmental assessment – and now available for public comment – the paper plant’s management describes its plans in more detail than has been seen previously. Notably, Northern Pulp says it intends to use an AnoxKaldnes biological activated sludge (BAS) treatment process purchased from Veolia Water Technologies that would combine moving bed biofilm reactor technology with conventional activated sludge (see chart below).
“Once treated, effluent would be sent via an approximately 15.5 kilometre-long pipeline,” the assessment documents state, referring to infrastructure intended for the Northumberland Strait, where treated effluent would then be discharged via an engineered diffuser.
The new plans also state that the marine-based portion of the high density polyethylene pipeline will be approximately 4.1 kilometres long and placed within a 3-metre deep open cut trench. The installed pipeline will have a 2-metre minimum depth of cover to provide protection.
Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan has expressed concern over the route of the pipeline in terms of potential impacts to drinking water. The outfall will be capable of discharging up to 85 million litres of effluent per day.
Northern Pulp exports over $200 million worth of goods annually, which constitutes a significant portion of the province’s total forestry exports. The company says that, once applicable permits and approvals have been obtained, the new construction activity would take an estimated 21 months from spring 2019, with operations beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020.
The new construction is due to 2015 legislation that ordered the original effluent treatment facility shut by early 2020, following a pipeline rupture that spilled some 47 million litres of effluent into a wetland in 2014. Boat Harbour’s current heavily polluted treatment lagoon remains on the edge of the Pictou Landing First Nation.
The latest proposed project does not include the decommissioning of the existing effluent treatment system, effluent piping system downstream of the existing standpipe, and ancillary components, which are covered under a separate regulatory process.
Last year, a group of Nova Scotia fishermen concerned over potential impact to aquatic life, formed a blockade that prevented a Northern Pulp survey vessel from doing water research for its effluent pipe, which would run along the floor of Pictou Harbour to an outflow area that would use a diffuser system to release the bleached kraft pulp mill’s effluent in small intervals.