Nova Scotia demands new, detailed report for Northern Pulp wastewater project

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On the subject of Northern Pulp’s pending environmental assessment, Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister has released a decision that demands more detailed information about 19 elements of the proposed effluent treatment plant for Pictou County.

Environment Minister Margaret Miller released her decision on March 29, noting that her department will soon publish terms of reference for a newly-required focus report and post them on the department website. Paper Excellence Canada, the management team for Northern Pulp, will then have up to one year to submit the follow-up report on the project, which centres on a replacement effluent treatment facility and a controversial underwater discharge pipeline.

The proposed effluent treatment facility would replace Pictou County’s controversial Boat Harbour treatment facility owned by the Nova Scotia government and leased to Northern Pulp.

“We make our decisions based on science and evidence,” said Miller in her statement on Northern Pulp. “In this case, I require more information to determine the impacts on the environment.”

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Among the items about which the focus report will need to provide the government with more information are the potential impacts of the project in terms of pipeline location; facility design, construction, operation and maintenance; water resources and sediment quality; air quality; characteristics of the wastewater after treatment; fish and fish habitat; flora and fauna; human health; archaeology; Mi’kmaq land uses; and engagement with the public, Mi’kmaq and government.

The paper plant’s management says that while it’s willing to collect the data requested, the new focus report could jeopardize its ability to meet the government’s timeline to complete construction of a new waste management facility by January 31, 2020. The government passed the Boat Harbour Act in 2015, launching a five-year countdown to the closure of the mill’s current treatment site.

“We are confident in our plan and we will provide more information as per the government’s request; however as we’ve seen throughout this project, these requests take time,” announced Brian Baarda, Paper Excellence Canada CEO, in a statement to media. “We require an extension to the legislated deadline, so we have enough time to collect the information and to finish our new wastewater treatment facility.”

Northern Pulp submitted some 600-plus pages of documents in February for the project’s environmental assessment. It intends to use an AnoxKaldnes biological activated sludge treatment process from Veolia Water Technologies that would combine moving bed biofilm reactor technology with conventional activated sludge.

“If the government does not give us enough time to complete the new facility, we will have no choice but to permanently cease operations in Nova Scotia,” Baarda added.

To read some of the public comments recently submitted about the Northern Pulp mill project, click here.

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