Photo: G Farrell
There is an environmental crisis happening in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
Since the 1960’s, a pulp and paper mill has been polluting the air, land and water in Pictou. For years, the mill pumped its toxic effluent into a once-pristine tidal estuary at Boat Harbour.
This is one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada – years of misleading information, lies and broken promises to Pictou Landing First Nations.
The abuse came to a head in 2014, when 47 million litres of effluent poured into a sacred burial ground. Pictou Landing First Nations made it clear that this could no longer be tolerated. As a result of Pictou Landing First Nations’ stand, the provincial government legislated that the mill must stop pumping their effluent into Boat Harbour as of January 31, 2020 to allow work to begin on the clean up of half a century of toxic mess. It is anticipated that repairing this damage will cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and take years to complete.
Now, Northern Pulp wants to continue its toxic legacy with a pipeline that will pump up to 90 million litres of toxic pulp effluent a day into the Northumberland Strait. This plan will impact the air, land, water and marine habitats along the Northumberland Strait.
When the Boat Harbour Act was proclaimed in 2015, it was the responsibility of Northern Pulp to create a proposal for operating without using Boat Harbour. This was an opportunity to identify different markets, find clean technology and become an economic partner to Nova Scotia who cared about our environment and the health of our communities.
Regrettably, Northern Pulp has instead come forward with a proposal to pump the plant’s effluent directly into the Northumberland Strait.
We must make it clear to the province that Northern Pulp cannot be permitted to proceed with this plan.
We've been working hard to change this situation before it’s too late. Staff from our wilderness, coastal and marine teams have been supporting the work of first nations leaders, fishermen, tourism operators, and citizens from across the province who oppose this proposed project. We also stand in solidarity with Pictou Landing First Nations as they work to ensure that Northern Pulp stops pumping their effluent into Boat Harbour as of January 31, 2020, as promised.
In July 2018, we helped organize one of the largest environmental protests in Nova Scotia’s history. The #NoPipe Land & Sea Rally brought over 3,500 citizens together in and on Pictou Harbour to oppose the plan by Northern Pulp to pump up to 90 million litres of toxic pulp mill waste directly into the Northumberland Strait via an underwater pipe.
In March 2019, Nova Scotia Environment received more than 900 submissions on the first stage of the Northern Pulp’s Environmental Assessment for their pipe proposal. Northern Pulp’s Environmental Assessment for their Replacement Effluent Treatment System (the proposed effluent pipe into Northumberland Strait) was sent back to the company, by Environment Minister Margaret Miller, citing 19 areas where lack of information made it impossible to assess the environmental impact. Many of the areas flagged in EAC’s submission to the Environmental Assessment process were identified by the Minister as deficient. You can read our submission here.
In October 2019, that focus report was made public -- 2,600 pages of complex (and sometimes misleading) information with a narrow timeframe for public review. We joined others formally asking the Minister of Environment for an extension to that deadline. It was not approved. Thanks to folks like you, hundreds participated in the provincial Environmental Assessment process. We worked with East Coast Environmental Law to rally folks to write in and submitted the following documents as part of the process.
Environment Minister Gordon Wilson will have 25 days after the public comment period closes to deliver a decision on whether to approve the project. The public comment period closed on November 8, 2019. Northern Pulp has said that, if approval to construct a new effluent treatment facility and pipeline is granted, they would need to continue using its current effluent treatment site at Boat Harbour for 21 months until the work is complete. The provincial government legislated that the mill must stop pumping their effluent into Boat Harbour as of January 31, 2020 to allow work to begin to clean up half a century of toxic mess.