HALIFAX — Northern Pulp has formally registered its project to replace the effluent treatment facility in Boat Harbour with Nova Scotia’s Environment Department for environmental assessment.
The recent move, made Feb. 7, kicks off the 30-day public comment period for the controversial project.
According to the department, the project includes a new effluent treatment facility and a new 15.5-kilometre-long pipeline that will carry treated wastewater, or effluent, to be discharged in the Northumberland Strait.
It says the effluent pipeline would follow Highway 106 for about 11.4 kilometres, then enter waters near the Northumberland Ferries marine terminal.
The pipe would continue for about 4.1 kilometres through Caribou Harbour to the Northumberland Strait, where the effluent would be discharged through an engineered diffuser.
Environment Minister Margaret Miller is to decide whether the project can be granted conditional environmental assessment approval by March 29.
In a news release, Northern Pulp called the registration of its application a “significant milestone” for a project it says is “vital to the continued operation of Northern Pulp, anchor to Nova Scotia’s forest industry.”
“We all have the same goal which is to see Boat Harbour returned to its natural state,” said Bruce Chapman the mill’s general manager.
“We simply need more time to carry out due diligence in each phase from environmental assessment, to construction and commissioning of this new facility.”
However, Premier Stephen McNeil has said he has no intention of changing a legislated deadline to close Boat Harbour by Jan. 31, 2020.
McNeil has also said that he would debate changes to the deadline in the legislature if they evolve out of a community consensus in Pictou County and are brought forward by the area’s Opposition members.
Boat Harbour’s heavily polluted treatment lagoon is on the edge of the Pictou Landing First Nation.
The company says the treated effluent it plans to pump into the strait will meet federal regulations for emissions, but opponents including local fisherman contend there’s a lack of scientific evidence regarding how the waste will affect the long-term health of the lucrative lobster and crab fisheries.
“Based on the results of this assessment, with planned mitigation and using best practices to avoid or minimize adverse effects, the wastewater treatment facility’s effect on the environment during all phases is rated as not significant,” the company said in a news release.