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Northern Pulp to Mothball Mill as it Continues with Environmental Assessment Process

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The CBC reports that just weeks before the mill is scheduled to shut down, officials with Northern Pulp have informed the Nova Scotia government they plan to continue with the environmental assessment process for a proposed new effluent treatment facility.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said last month the company's most recent attempt to get approval for the project, which would include treatment on the mill's property in Pictou County and treated effluent sent to the Northumberland Strait via a pipeline, lacked sufficient scientific information. At the time, Wilson said the project would require an environmental assessment report.

Just days later, Premier Stephen McNeil said he would not extend the deadline in the Boat Harbour Act, legislation that says the mill must stop using the former tidal estuary to treat its effluent as of the end of this month.

The decision effectively spelled the end of the mill and officials have begun the shutdown process. The operation is no longer buying pulpwood, a move that's had a drastic effect on the forestry sector and value of woodlots, and layoff notices for the mill's 350 workers are imminent.

Still, according to the 37-page draft terms of reference released by the Environment Department on Wednesday, the company told the government on Jan. 2 it intended to continue with the environmental assessment process, a decision that required the department to release the draft. The public has until Feb. 7 to comment on the document, exactly a week after Boat Harbour is scheduled to stop receiving effluent.

A final terms of reference will be provided to the company in April, at which point it will have two years to complete the environmental assessment report.

In a statement, the company said it remains committed to the province and wants to operate in Nova Scotia "for the long-term."

"We intend to complete an environmental assessment for our proposed effluent treatment facility and are in the process of reviewing the terms of reference," the statement said.

"Our team is currently focused on supporting our employees, developing plans for a safe and environmentally responsible hibernation, and working with the Government of Nova Scotia and stakeholders to determine next steps."

Mill officials have previously dismissed the idea the mill could be shut down for an extended period without damage to the equipment.

In the first public comments from anyone from government since McNeil's ruling last month, the premier said Thursday it's fine for the company to remain in the province, but if it's going to operate it must be with "the right approval with an environmental assessment and with the right treatment facility and it has to meet all the standards of today."


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