Mill’s treatment plan is still toxic waste

Opinion
Pictou-Advocate-opinion

Minister Iain Rankin,

As I’ve written previously, this needs to be more transparent and it should be public knowledge.

The second paragraph in your response to one of my letters gives me real concern, where you write: ‘I am sure you are aware that effluent from the pulp mill has been treated by the Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility and then discharged into the Northumberland Strait for the last 50 years.’ This sounds very similar to your response to the premier of Prince Edward Island.

The letter I sent to you on the 14th of January, I wrote: ‘These dealings between our government and the mill should have been more transparent. This situation needs to be investigated and addressed as the potential damage to Lobster Fishing Area 26 and the marine ecosystem in general may not be reversible if indeed the Strait becomes a ‘lab test’ of sorts if/when subjected to ‘direct’ pulp and paper waste. What should be apparent, is that Boat Harbour acted, (at the expense of Pictou Landing First Nations) https://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/on-boat-harbours-toxic-pond/Content?oid=1108487 , as a giant filtration and cooling system, yes the effluent eventually made its way to the Northumberland Strait over the last 50 years, but first it cooled and deposited an estimated 350,000 cubic meters of toxic waste! ‘

I can’t imagine, coming from the ‘steward for our environment’, such a seemingly callous statement including a general lack of knowledge and insight regarding the past damage and the potential damage this new treatment plan for the mill’s effluent with certainty will cause. The effluent this proposed pipeline will carry, regardless whether or not it would meet the required regulations, is toxic waste. The toxic waste in Boat Harbour killed all the life that existed there previously, there is no argument. I’ve read estimates starting at $8 million, to the latest $133 million and if history can be used as a guide, it’ll probably end up costing closer to $250 million to clean up Boat Harbour and the associated toxic waste.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act specifies specifically regarding bleached pulp mill effluent, using chlorine as the bleaching agent and in the conclusions:

Page 41: ‘Seventy-five percent of Canadian bleached pulp mills discharge effluents that are acutely lethal, and even after dilution by the receiving waters 75 percent of the freshwater bleached pulp mill effluents are still within the range of chronic toxicity. The chronic effects observed downstream of Canadian bleached pulp mills include significant irreversible factors which jeopardize the continuance of the species and the integrity of the ecosystem.’

Page 42: ‘The members of the Task Group on “Effluents from Pulp Mills using Bleaching” believe that mandatory reporting by mills of their output of organically bound chlorine and of a range of chlorophenolic compounds in effluents, water, sediments or biological tissues should be established. Environmental effects monitoring should also be required. Given the difficulty of dealing with these contaminants, and their transformation products, future regulations if necessary should place maximum emphasis on preventing the formation of chlorinated organic compounds through the use of alternative technologies and better process control. Properly designed and managed secondary effluent treatment will also reduce the organic chlorine loading to the aquatic environment.’

A new system, new treatment, advancements in technology, etc., it is still toxic waste. Consider the above act was written about 25 years ago and led to environmental effects monitoring which exists today, implemented to track the damage and to address the same, hopefully with alternative technologies. Ironic that this is about the same amount of time our mill is past its projected lifespan, yet we are about to go from bad to worse regarding the discharge of effluent directly to the Strait, completely and directly against the recommendations of the many groups of scientists that wrote the above Act over 25 years ago.

My question is: Who is paying for Northern Pulp’s new treatment facility and pipeline to the Northumberland Strait? There seems to be a mountain of evidence that it will indeed be the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. I’ve read this may cost over $100 million? Isn’t it a conflict of interest for the provincial government, if liable for the actual cost of a new treatment facility and associated pipeline for the mill, to be the entity to determine if said treatment facility will be environmentally fit? It seems as though it should be a federal environmental assessment and it’s probably a conflict for the provincial government to actual class the level of assessment, if indeed that same government is in any way liable for these costs or the potential costs of lost revenue for the mill if, in the interim, the mill is not functioning.

Is our provincial government presently liable for lost income for Northern Pulp, when Boat Harbour is closed in 2020, if there is indeed a delay with the environmental process, actually delaying the ability for the mill to operate without a place for the effluent? This should be public information, it’s our tax dollars.

I’ve also read that it would cost approximately $60 million for Northern Pulp to convert to a mill that could produce bleached pulp, using hydrogen peroxide and a mechanical process, which would allow a closed loop system. If the taxpayers are paying for this new treatment facility, don’t you think our money would be better spent providing the mill with funds to convert? If we are concerned about our marine environment and the many livelihoods that rely on its health, that would make a lot of sense.

I suppose if Northern Pulp is not liable to pay for any of these associated costs, it probably doesn’t interest them to convert?

There is no possible way an environmental assessment, performed over less than a period of a number of years, could inclusively incorporate and determine all the short and long term effects and the potential damage to the many species of marine life that inhabit the Northumberland Strait.

Consider this scenario, sustained northeast winds of 25-30+ knots for a period of days, not unusual; do you think the tide falls much under those circumstances? The majority of Pictou Harbour will be the receiving waters under these circumstances and for a sustained period. Note the study performed AMEC Earth & Environmental, A Division of AMEC Americas Limited:

March 2007

File No. TE61035

“The inner portion of Pictou Harbour experiences anoxic conditions in the warm summer months”

(Pictou Harbour Environmental Protection Project, 2004).

Considering Pictou Harbour in the summer months is already partially anoxic, how much would the receiving waters affect the existing life in the harbour, if the tide is held in due to sustained, heavy NE winds?

Please alert the Federal Environment and re-class the required environmental assessment required.

This should also involve Parks Canada, considering there is a provincial park and beach within 10 kilometers of the purposed receiving waters.

John Collins

Alma Road

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