PICTOU LANDING – Several groups concerned about Northumberland Strait’s future have come out against Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation’s proposal to discharge effluent into the strait.
The Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, and the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, with the support of the New Brunswick Fisheries Association and Pictou Landing First Nation, collectively oppose the proposed effluent treatment and disposal system for the Abercrombie Point mill that would release 70-90 million litres of effluent daily through a sub-sea pipe, into the Northumberland Strait.
“Given the predictable negative environmental impacts of piping effluent into the Northumberland Strait, our united position is ‘No pipe in the Strait’. The damaging effects of accumulation of toxins that are present even in treated effluent are well-documented and are dangerous for the fish species that spawn and live in the Northumberland Strait,” Ronnie Heighton, president of the of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, said in the group’s press release.
The groups are adamant that a federal environmental assessment is required for the proposed project. It noted that three provincial economies and several First Nation communities depend on a clean and healthy Northumberland Strait, while much of the coastline of the Northumberland Strait is designated as a federal Marine Protected Area and the area where the pipe would discharge effluent is home to several federal marine refuges.
“This project clearly belongs under federal jurisdiction and a federal environmental assessment should be required. Our organizations have retained legal counsel and environmental consultants to inform us on this process” according to PEIFA president Bobby Jenkins.
The groups referred to the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, which in 2016 found that the current effluent treatment and disposal system at Abercrombie Point mill unjustly pollutes Pictou Landing First Nation communities and traditional fishing grounds at Boat Harbour.
“That the proposed alternative to Boat Harbour merely shifts the burden of pollution to Northumberland Strait is unacceptable,” said Chief Andrea Paul of the Pictou Landing First Nation. “The discharge pipe system would be a clear violation of the spirit and substance of the commitments made by the Government of Nova Scotia.”
The groups called on federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Nova Scotia Environment Minister Iain Rankin, and Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell to conduct a more fulsome assessment of the options for disposing effluent from the pulp mill.
They consider land-based treatment and disposal systems that are available and to be a more appropriate solution and several federal-provincial infrastructure and economic development funds can be accessed to develop an effluent treatment and disposal system that serves the pulp mill’s needs of Northern Pulp and protects Northumberland Strait.
“We strongly support the jobs provided by Northern Pulp, and by Abercrombie Point mill specifically. However, the fisheries operating in Northumberland Strait are also a crucial Atlantic Canada industry,” MFU President Carl Allen said. “Using a land-based treatment and disposal system at Abercrombie Point Mill is the only way to both create jobs at the Mill and safeguard the health of Atlantic Canada’s key fisheries.”