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Northern Pulp appeals ministerial cleanup order, pauses environmental assessment 

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

The parent company for the idled Northern Pulp mill says it has filed an appeal with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court related to a ministerial order issued last month for the management of the site.

In a news release issued Monday, Paper Excellence Canada says the order imposes terms and conditions that are “impractical” and show a “lack of understanding of the pulp and paper industry and effluent treatment facilities.”

The order, issued by Environment Minister Gordon Wilson, outlined requirements for the collection and disposal of storm water and landfill leachate from the site.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia environment minister issues order to Northern Pulp on cleanup, decommissioning

It also required the mill to hire a third-party professional engineer to develop a decommissioning plan for the effluent pipeline as well as for open ditches and settling basins.

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The company also says it has informed Wilson it intends to pause the environmental assessment process for a new effluent treatment facility in order to hold further discussions with various industry and community groups about the way forward.

The pulp mill stopped production on Jan. 31 after the province rejected its request to continue pumping treated effluent into a nearby treatment lagoon in Boat Harbour, N.S., near the Pictou Landing First Nation.

“We remain concerned that the environmental assessment, based on the current terms of reference, is ambiguous and would not result in a clear outcome,” said Graham Kissack, vice-president for environment, health, safety and communications for Paper Excellence Canada.

“Pausing the assessment will provide time for us to further engage the community in discussion about the mill and its future, how we can best co-exist, and an appropriate environmental assessment process for the environmental improvement being proposed.”

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The province also announced last month that it was providing a maximum of $10 million under an agreement with Northern Pulp to help with the cleanup of the site.

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The province said the money was about half the cost of the work and would pay for removal of the leachate, decommissioning of effluent pipes and cleanup of ditches and aeration basins on the site. It said the work is expected to be completed by June 30, 2021.

The province owns the pipe that runs from the mill to the now-closed effluent lagoon.

“We want to operate in Nova Scotia and believe that a modern mill and healthy environment can co-exist in Pictou County,” said Kissack.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia to pay up to $10 million to assist cleanup of Northern Pulp site

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2020.

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