Northern Pulp examining ‘hot idle’, says Nova Scotia forestry transition team member

Click to play video: 'Questions raised about possible options for Northern Pulp mill' Questions raised about possible options for Northern Pulp mill
WATCH: Prominent forestry member says Northern Pulp is eyeing a hot idle process when the mill closes – Jan 6, 2020

A prominent member of the forestry industry and newly appointed member of the Nova Scotia forestry transition team says Northern Pulp management is considering its options when it comes to operating in a hot idle when the mill closes at the end of the month.

Robin Wilber, president of the Elmsdale Lumber Company, was named to the province’s forestry transition team Friday along with a handful of others from the industry.

READ MORE: Northern Pulp mill will shut down by Jan. 31, as N.S. premier announces $50M transition fund

Earlier that week, Wilber said he met with some members of Northern Pulp’s executive team and says they are interested in putting the factory into a hot idle process, ensuring the factory and its expansive piping system remain in working order.

“They will shut down at the end of January, and they would like to put it on hot idle,” said Wilber.

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“So maybe in the future, they could continue its work with the environmental assessment and eventually maybe restart.”

Representatives from Northern Pulp didn’t respond to interview requests on Monday.

Click to play video: 'N.S. woodlots feeling impact of impending Northern Pulp closure' N.S. woodlots feeling impact of impending Northern Pulp closure
N.S. woodlots feeling impact of impending Northern Pulp closure – Jan 3, 2020

As for the hot idle process, Wilber said it would continue to run hot water through the boiler system in order to keep the piping from freezing during the cold winter.

“It’s complicated for the everyday person to understand it,” he said, “but go to Florida and shut your furnace off for the winter and you’ll come home to a ruined house.”

Wilber said it would just be hot water running through the system and into the Boat Harbour basin, where the mill has been dumping the factory’s contaminated wastewater for more than 50 years.

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Critics, however, say otherwise.

Jill Graham-Scanlan, president of advocacy group Friends of the Northumberland Strait, says the hot water running through the boiler system is still effluent.

From a legal perspective, she says, Northern Pulp wouldn’t be allowed to put the factory into a hot idle, as per the Boat Harbour Act.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s forestry industry in ‘crisis mode,’ says Colchester County wood lot owner

“If Northern Pulp wished to go into a hot idle process and continue to have effluent, which indeed it would through the process, then an application would have to be made to the province to deal with that effluent,” she said.

Such regulatory processes are complicated and would take time, says Graham-Scanlan, and she’s doubtful Northern Pulp would be able to complete that in the next three weeks.

“It is something they should have considered and undertaken a long time before now,” said Graham-Scanlan. “It seems to be an 11th-hour request which just isn’t appropriate.”

A Pictou Landing First Nation spokesperson said as of Monday they haven’t heard from Northern Pulp or the province regarding a hot idle proposal, which leads the First Nation community to believe this is not an option the province is considering.

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According to the terms of the Boat Habour Act, Northern Pulp must cease its dumping of wastewater from its factory into the Boat Habour basin located in Pictou Landing First Nation.

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