The owners of Pulp del Norte pulp mill in Pictou, NS, are looking for a year-long extension of a provincial law that seeks to close the facilities of waste effluents from the factory in January of 2020
Speaking at a press conference in Halifax, officials at Paper Excellence said the company is committed to correcting a legacy of five decades of pollution. But the company says it needs more time to build a new 130 million dollar effluent treatment plant to replace the existing facilities at Boat Harbor, N.S.
The Boat Harbor law was approved by the liberal government of Nova Scotia in 2015 and requires current facilities to close on January 31, 2020, one year from today. The movement occurred after the capture of Pictou Landing First Nation, which is adjacent to that of the settlement lagoons used to treat wastewater.
The lagoons contain almost 50 years of toxic waste, and it has been called one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.
But the Prime Minister of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil, is not interested in the company's request.
"The deadline is the deadline," he told reporters Thursday.
The company says without an extension that will not operate the factory, but I would not say it is willing to close permanently.
"We will not act illegally, but we believe we will come here," said Paper Excellence spokesman Kathy Cloutier.
McNeil seemed ready for a stop for Northern Pulp for some period of time.
"The question would be for what period of time the company would be."
McNeil says the province is examining the most serious scenario, in terms of its liabilities, the state of financial assistance to Northern Pulp and other sawmills, occupational pension plans and alternative markets for chips of wood bought by Northern Pulp.
"We are working on this path," he said.
Paper Excellence says that the construction of new treatment facilities will start as soon as you get the approval of the regulations, even without an extension.
The future of the mill and its way of treating 75 million liters of waste water every day are subject to intense debate in northern Nova Scotia, especially in Pictou County, where the mill has worked since 1967
With the closure of Harbor Harbor, the company proposes to build, own and operate an activated sludge treatment system next to the northern pulp factory with the treated effluent discharged by a diffusing pipeline in the Straits of Northumberland near Caribou, NS
The press conference on Thursday coincided with Pulp del Norte presenting its environmental assessment to the government of Nova Scotia. The evaluation will be published publicly within a week.
The proposal will be given a provincial review of class 1, which will take about 50 days.
"The federal government is still considering a much longer review, at the request of the First Nations and the neighboring province of Prince Edward Island,
The fishermen claim that the proposed discharge pipe will hurt the lucrative grasshopper fishing in the area and has prevented blockages to prevent survey vessels from working on a route to the pipe. Earlier this week, Northern Pulp issued a statement in which the fishermen agreed to comply with a legal requirement that prohibited them from blocking their ships.
The company maintains that the system will comply with the federal standards and the effluent of the treated pulp factory is discharged into fresh and salty water elsewhere.
The owner of the sawmill, Robin Wilmer of Elmsdale Lumber, says that the destination of the northern pulp will affect the whole forest industry. The sawmills send bark and chips to the mill.
"Without pulp factories, without sawmills, the farmer loses revenue from his woody. It's a very integrated industry from Yarmouth to Sydney," said Wilmer
He says that he understands the frustration in Pictou County about the contamination of the mill, but says that the company deserves more time.
"The excellence of paper has only existed for a few years. There were other four previous owners who left a bad taste in everyone's lips," he says.
"We have to give them an opportunity".
Durney Nicholas is Fisherman of Pictou Landing First Nation. He attended the press conference and was not persuaded.
"They always say" Give me more time, "but there's enough," he said.
On Thursday, more than 500 people gathered at a Pictou Landing First Nation gym to start counting back one year at the end of the Boat Harbor treatment facility, which has been in opposition to decades .
The ceremony includes drums and dances, the students read speeches and people sign support statements to keep the term in force.
"We are not moving the date. The date is the date," Captain Andrea Paul told reporters.
"We have one year left and Harbor Boat will not be used as a effluent dump. We are very excited."
Paul was emotional when he addressed the crowd and talked about the inheritance of Boat Harbor and what he did to the environment.
"They brought us the right to fish, they took our right to survival, they took our health."
Recognizing a memory wall in the back of the room, a screen with the names and images of members of the community that no longer live to see that day, Pau said it would be a holy day when the community meets around from the Port de Vaixell for one year to witness the stop of the effluent flow.
"What a serious day will be," he said. "The next year will be a beautiful day".