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N.S. government extends Northern Pulp’s use of Boat Harbour wastewater treatment plant until April

The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., is viewed from Pictou, N.S., Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.
The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., is viewed from Pictou, N.S., Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Northern Pulp will continue to use its Boat Harbour wastewater treatment plant until the end of April as the company prepares the facility for its indefinite closure.

On Wednesday, Northern Pulp announced it had received an order from Nova Scotia Minister of Environment Gordon Wilson that directs the continued use of its wastewater treatment plant to ensure hibernation of the Boat Harbour facility is done in a safe and environmentally proper way.

One part of that preparation, the hibernation process, focuses on the removal of chemicals, pulp and wood fibre from mill storage tanks, piping and wood yards ahead of the facility’s indefinite closure.

READ MORE: Pictou Landing First Nation ‘disappointed’ over Northern Pulp operations following closure

The Northern Pulp mill, located near Pictou, was ordered in December 2019 to stop pumping wastewater into lagoons near an Indigenous community by Jan. 31, 2020. The company has since been working with the provincial government to prepare for the mill’s closure.

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Nova Scotia’s environment minister concedes the province is living up to the spirit of the law, but not the letter in allowing the Northern Pulp mill to continue to dump effluent past a legislated deadline Friday.

Gordon Wilson said Thursday that is an accurate description of the government’s decision to allow some discharge from the plant past the date when it was supposed to cease all operations at its treatment facility.

READ MORE: Northern Pulp workers brace for life after the paper mill closes

Premier Stephen McNeil had previously maintained the Boat Harbour Act, which set the deadline, would not be breached because no new effluent would be flowing into the treatment lagoons near the Pictou Landing First Nation.

According to Northern Pulp, the new order from Wilson states that as the facility is prepared for closure, “no pulp manufacturing process water can be released; only warm boiler water, water generated from hibernation activities, and site run-off from the general mill yard and its landfill.”

Northern Pulp has said it will continue to run its wood waste boiler in order to provide heat for the facility, protect against freezing and enable the cleanup of process equipment during the hibernation process.

READ MORE: Economic fallout of Northern Pulp closure will cut deep in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County

Brian Baarda, CEO of Northern Pulp’s parent company, Paper Excellence, said the company has “transferred almost all chemicals from the site to other operating facilities in Canada and the hibernation plan is on track to be completed by end of April.”

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According to Northern Pulp, mill emissions, including wastewater, solid waste and air, will continuously be tested as required by the government.

Moreover, the government is requiring the company to prepare a wastewater disposal plan for handling site liquids after April 2020 and a site decommissioning plan that details cleanup and management of the pipeline, landfill, surface waters and various storage infrastructure.

The facility has now given layoff notice to most employees, however some will remain over the next six months as activity continues but winds down into fall 2020.

-With files from The Canadian Press