FONS asks Environment Minister to reject mill’s application for new facility

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Friends of the Northumberland Strait (FONS) says the science behind Northern Pulp’s proposed treatment facility is lacking and have asked Environment Margaret Miller to reject the mill’s application.

“We have heard over and over that the decision will be made on the science,” says Jill Graham-Scanlan, president of FONS. “If that is the case, and it should be, then Minister Miller cannot approve this project. In the 1700 pages submitted by Northern Pulp, the company has provided few hard facts, and little up to date science on key issues.”

She says Northern Pulp provided no information on the actual composition or concentration of the effluent they plan to discharge. In the absence of this information, the Minister has no basis to conclude that there will be no adverse health effects or significant environmental effects that cannot be mitigated, says Graham-Scanlan.

Northern Pulp did not provide lobster larvae studies, or baseline information on wetlands, marine mammals, freshwater fish, marine fish and fish habitat and other valued environmental components (VECs). There is no examination of possible health and environmental risks relating to mercury on the adjoining Canso Chemicals site, she says.

Also missing is a baseline water analysis for Caribou Harbour, FINS says. The company submitted information on Pictou Harbour as “proxy” – while admitting that Pictou Harbour is more polluted than Caribou Harbour. “These information gaps are completely unacceptable,” says Graham-Scanlan.

FONS submission to the Minister includes a critique of the Stantec Receiving Water Study provided by Dr. Oliver Finger, an oceanographer with expertise in numerical modeling of coastal dynamics at Stanford University. His detailed report states that implementation problems in Stantec’s modeling “are significant” and that “correct implementation of the models with more conservative and physically realistic scenarios would show that effluent concentrations in the region could be much larger and that effluent accumulation in Pictou and Caribou Harbours is likely.”

Although ice scour was a major reason that Northern Pulp abandoned its initial route, the  company did not conduct studies of ice scour for the proposed Caribou Harbour route. FONS submitted information from local fishermen and a master diver indicating that the proposed pipe will be vulnerable to damage from ice.

Graham-Scanlan says, “Northern Pulp’s proposed mitigation measure states, “Upon detection of any marine outfall pipe damage or diffuser fouling, repairs would be promptly performed.”  With ice locking in Caribou Harbour for four months of the year, repair would be impossible during that period.”

FONS submission, prepared by Ecojustice, argues that “… NPNS does not understand the environment in which it seeks to operate, it understates the risks of the project, and overstates the effectiveness of its proposed mitigation measures.”

“FONS is asking the Minister to reject the project,” says Graham-Scanlan. “In the alternative, due to multiple information gaps, lack of examination of significant issues, and lack of scientific support for the premises put forward by NPNS, as well as failure to provide evidence of mitigation measures and their effectiveness, we are asking the Minister to order a full environmental assessment report pursuant to section 34(1)(c).”