UPDATE Apr 30, 2018: How fishers feel about the Pipe: OPINION: Pulp pipe puts fishery livelihoods on the line
by Krista Fulton, Apr 28, 2018 in the Chronicle Herald
Thus the government is setting more stringent requirements for cleaning up historical pollution than the same government set just under a year ago as appropriate to assess the future processing of the same pollutants and release of the products directly into the Northumerland Strait via The Pipe.
The logical contradiction did not escape the notice of Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul:
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul welcomed the extended assessment for the cleanup process, which she said makes her feel more confident about the work.
Paul repeated her call for a similar process to be used for the new treatment facility that will replace Boat Harbour. She is also lobbying for the federal government to get involved in that process. The longer assessment would go a long way toward addressing public concerns and questions, said Paul.
"I don't know how the government can still feel confident that the Class I [assessment] would suffice." - Cleanup of Boat Harbour contaminated site will get more extensive environmental assessment
Michael Gorman, CBC News, Apr 27, 2018
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Rankin offered this tenuous reasoning for the difference:
Rankin stressed that cleaning up Boat Harbour and Northern Pulp's new facility are two different projects. One of the reasons the shorter assessment is more appropriate for the replacement site, which would see waste treated and then fed into Pictou Harbour via a pipe, is because it's a less complex project, said the minister.
"We expect that to be designed to meet today's environmental standards," said Rankin. "They're vastly different projects and they have two different processes to follow. Both of them are rigorous and thorough." - CBC Apr 27, 2018.
The decision to require only a class I EA for the replacement facility apparently was made June 1, 2017 - after the provincial election, but there was no associated NSE Press Release and as far as I can tell, that only became public knowledge in Sept. 2017 (re CBC Northern Pulp submits plans to replace notorious Boat Harbour facility CBC, Sept 1, 2017).*
In the meantime, Minister Rankin is making a lot of crow about their due diligence in cleaning up Boat Harbour:
“Price is not my concern,” the minister said. “This cleanup is too important. There is a number out there of $133 million that's budgeted. This needs to be done and it needs to be done thoroughly so I won’t comment on what that price tag might be for government.”
...Both Swain and Rankin said the goal is to return Boat Harbour to its pre-industry days as a tidal estuary. - Province outlines Northern Pulp waste assessment plan Francis Campbell for the Chronicle Herald Apr 27, 2018
And oh yes, "before any work can begin, Northern Pulp has to have a new effluent treatment plant built."
“We’ve always said that it is tight,” mill spokeswoman Kathy Cloutier said of the 2020 time-line. “That will remain the case but we are committed to do what we can to meet it and have a facility up and running in time for January 2020.”
The mill has yet to register its project with the provincial Environment Department. It is a controversial system, which would discharge treated wastewater directly into the Northumberland Strait.
Cloutier said the cost of the new treatment plant, or if that cost will be shared by government, has not been determined. - Province outlines Northern Pulp waste assessment plan Francis Campbell for the Chronicle Herald Apr 27, 2018
'Sure seems like the Class I EA for the replacement plant is a done deal.
*For some refreshment on this dismal story, view Linda Pannozzo's Dirty Dealing, Part 2: Wading Through the Quagmire of Northern Pulp’s Fast-tracked Environmental Assessment (Halifax Examiner Feb 13, 2018). An extract:
At that time, the mill (then Scott Paper) was producing 500 tons of bleached Kraft pulp per day and the untreated wastes — as we well know — were being pumped through an underground pipeline to Boat Harbour. Because “accidental spillages and peak production overflows of raw untreated wastes into Pictou Harbour can and do occur,” Krauel studied the flushing characteristics of the area starting in 1965, prior to the construction of the mill and again in 1967 and 1968, following the opening of the mill. His study concluded that the flushing capacity of the area was “inadequate to dilute the effluent below the proposed water quality standard,” at that time.
While the 50-year old study is arguably of limited value for today, it does point to something that is quite relevant: Krauel noted how many of the characteristics of the receiving water were quite variable and unpredictable. For instance, the flushing capacity of Pictou Harbour and the Northumberland Strait is one of the things that influences how quickly the chemicals and nutrients will disperse and assimilate. But flushing capacity is affected by many factors, including stream and river discharge, precipitation, and wind — all of which are difficult to predict and impossible to control. Changes in any one of these or other variables could result in a slowdown in circulation and a build-up in effluent concentrations to potentially critical levels.
Shoddy “Standard of Care”
According to Matheson, it was in May 2017, during the election period, that Frances Martin, the Deputy Minister of the Environment, decided that Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment plant was a “modification to an existing undertaking,” requiring the less onerous Class 1 Environmental Assessment (EA). Martin received advice from EA branch staff, and was acting on behalf of Margaret Miller, the Environment Minister at the time.
According to the documents accessed through the freedom of information request, Helen MacPhail, the EA supervisor, was one of the people providing some key advice to Martin. In May 2017, MacPhail sent an email to four of her colleagues in which she attached the project information from KSH, and wrote: “Please find attached the documents I received from Northern Pulp which I am currently reviewing to determine the EA requirements.”
It appears that at this point, whether it was a Class 1 or Class 2 undertaking was yet to be determined. But by June 7 — a week after the election in which the Liberals won a second majority — the decision had been made. That was when NSE first informed Northern Pulp that a Class 1 EA would be required and sent it hard copies of the Class 1 process.