A proposed new treatment system for Pictou County’s pulp mill will produce a better quality effluent and leave a smaller environmental footprint.
That’s the word from Northern Pulp Corporation officials who appeared Friday before PEI’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries.
MLA’s, the general public, and stakeholders in the fishing, tourism, and environmental sectors crowded into the Coles Building, with an overflow of people following proceedings through an audio feed piped into a nearby building.
The new treatment proposal has raised controversy on both sides of the Northumberland Strait, where treated effluent would flow after being pumped 11 kilometers from the pulp mill in Pictou Harbour through an underwater pipe.
Bruce Chapman is the General Manager of Northern Pulp and says with a new onsite treatment plant at the mill, the quality of the effluent will be improved and less impactful on the environment.
The current system is an aerated stabilization basin that’s used in about 70% of similar craft mills today. Chapman says, however, it’s an outdated mid-90’s method that discharges the treated effluent through nearby Boat Harbour and into the Strait now.
Chapman explained a closed-loop system isn’t possible at the plant because of minor minerals and chlorides in the effluent that, if recycled back into the plant, would cause corrosion of equipment and interfere with the chemistry of the pulp process. Since those minerals and chlorides already exist in the salt water, however, Chapman says the treated effluent would not be harmful to the environment.
Pumping the effluent directly into Pictou Harbour is also not a viable option since there’s not enough waterflow there to meet environmental guidelines.
Northern Pulp is expected to submit its environmental assessment this summer. The N.S. government will then have 30 days to conduct public consultations, followed by another 20-day period to make a ruling.
The final decision rests with Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister, who can either accept the proposal, reject it, or ask for more more studies.