March 28, 2019 3:21 pm
Updated: March 28, 2019 6:40 pm

Decision Friday on N.S. mill’s contentious plan to pump wastewater into Strait

The Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation mill is seen in Abercrombie, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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Nova Scotia’s Liberal government is poised to make one of its most important decisions since coming to power – one that could ultimately decide the future of the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County.

Environment Minister Margaret Miller said she will release her decision Friday on the environmental assessment of the mill’s proposed effluent treatment facility.

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The decision follows a 30-day public comment period for the controversial project that includes a new, 15.5-kilometre-long pipeline that will carry millions of litres of treated wastewater to the Northumberland Strait.

Miller said the decision on the company’s proposal is one of the biggest she’s had to make during her time in government and it’s weighed on her.

“I would have to be inhuman for it not to,” she said. “You know how this could impact people. I have read from some people how much the mill means to them and from others who want the mill closed.”

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But Miller said she’s satisfied the assessment process laid out under her department’s rules has enabled her to consider all points of view.

“We’ve still been able to address all the issues that we needed to address to come up with the right decision, and so I am satisfied with the process.”

The paper mill has become a flashpoint – it proposes to dump more than 85 million litres per day of treated waste into rich fishing grounds.

The plan has pitted forest industry workers against fishermen, environmentalists and even the P.E.I. government.

Halifax-born movie star Ellen Page has attempted to rally her 1.5 million Twitter followers against it.

Miller said she has reviewed more than 1,700 pages of environmental assessment documents submitted by the mill as well as 918 letters submitted online by the public.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said he has no intention of changing a legislated deadline to close the current facility in Boat Harbour by Jan. 31, 2020.

The heavily polluted treatment lagoon is on the edge of the Pictou Landing First Nation.

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Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while his government was concerned about the plan to dump effluent into the Strait, it had no plans for a federal environmental assessment because Nova Scotia has that responsibility.

On Thursday Miller confirmed that she has received no indication that Ottawa would step into the process.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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