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Northern Pulp moving ahead with environment report for treatment facility


January 9, 2020
By Kristina Urquhart / P&PC
Northern Pulp. Photo: © Murdo Ferguson/Paper Excellence

Northern Pulp’s parent company, Paper Excellence, has informed the Nova Scotia Department of Environment that it will continue the environmental assessment process for its proposed effluent treatment plant.

Draft terms of reference for the report were released today. The terms of reference outline the additional information required by the province after it declared the pulp mill’s recent focus report incomplete.

The Boat Harbour Act will still be enforced as of Jan. 31, and the pulp mill will close in the interim. There have been recent unconfirmed reports that the mill will enter a hot idle while it completes the environmental assessment, but Paper Excellence has not commented.

The draft document states that Northern Pulp must “[address] the deficiencies in the information provided to date through the environmental assessment process and which fulfills the intent of the terms of reference. The environmental assessment report must consider all the effects that are likely to arise from the project, including any not explicitly identified in the terms of reference.”

Among the requirements, the mill must identify and describe: other methods of treating effluent, the environmental effects of the project including species at risk, measures that may mitigate or prevent negative environmental effects, a program to monitor environmental effects during construction, operation and abandonment, and a public information program to explain the project.

Northern Pulp must also discuss the environmental effects that it cannot avoid or mitigate through the application of environmental control technology.

The public and government reviewers have until Feb. 7 to comment on the draft. After that date, Northern Pulp will have 21 days to comment on the draft.

The government says the final terms of reference will be provided to Northern Pulp by early April, after which point Northern Pulp will have up to two years to complete the environmental assessment report.

Nova Scotia passed the Boat Harbour Act in 2015, allotting five years for Northern Pulp’s bleached kraft pulp mill, located in Pictou County, to implement an alternate plan for its wastewater treatment. The current system deposits untreated effluent into lagoons at Boat Harbour, which is adjacent to Pictou Landing First Nation.

On Feb. 7, 2019, Northern Pulp submitted to the province an environmental assessment report on the plan for its new Activated Sludge Treatment (AST) system, which would see 85 million litres of treated effluent per day routed through a 15-kilometre pipeline into Northumberland Strait.

The new facility would use the AnoxKaldnes BAS (Biological Activated Sludge) process from Veolia Water Technologies, which combines Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) technology with conventional activated sludge.

On Mar. 29, the environment minister at the time (Margaret Miller) said the report lacked sufficient scientific information, and requested a follow-up focus report.

Northern Pulp submitted that report on Oct. 2, with additional third-party assessments indicating the mill’s AST system would deliver diffused, treated effluent and would not have adverse effects on the fish or environment.