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How much for a new Boat Harbour?

Exclusive Access to Information answers the 45.9 million dollar question

by Miles Howe

The Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility - one of Nova Scotia's worst ongoing environmental disasters. [Photo: Miles Howe]
The Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility - one of Nova Scotia's worst ongoing environmental disasters. [Photo: Miles Howe]

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Through an Access to Information request the Halifax Media Co-op has obtained a 2012 study conducted by KSH Consulting of Montreal titled 'Characterization and Evaluation of Effluent Collection and Treatment Systems'.

The study was undertaken on behalf of Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp, the current owners of the Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper mill in Pictou, Nova Scotia. As with many of the more recent studies that the Halifax Media Co-op has obtained in relation to the mill, the study in question was undertaken to satisfy the mill's 2011 operational permit.

The study is of interest for a variety of reasons:

The study provides an assessment of the mill's effluent collection and pumping systems, as well as the current effluent treatment system, namely, the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility.

The study also explores a number of 'treatment technology options' - replacements or technological improvements to the current system of dumping untreated effluent into Boat Harbour – and provides prices and estimated times needed for a variety of upgrades.

For example, a new activated sludge treatment system located on the mill site, a system that would potentially negate the need to pump on average 70 million litres of effluent per day into Boat Harbour, is explored as an option.

The price tag for a new treatment system, which the study estimates would take up to 36 months to build, is $45.9 million.

Please see the attached file for details on the various effluent treatment options.

This information is of particular relevance to the vaguely-worded Agreement in Principle recently signed between Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul and Nova Scotia Department of Environment Minister Randy Delorey.

The gist of the Agreement in Principle is that in 2015, the provincial government of Nova Scotia will legislate a timeline towards the closure of the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility. Between now and then, Northern Pulp will explore options towards replacing it's use of the once-pristine estuary lagoon as a dumping ground, which has been the pulp mill's effluent receptacle of choice since a potentially criminal, provincially complicit, swindle of the Pictou Landing band in the mid-1960s.

Whether or not Northern Pulp chooses to go with the KSH Consulting option, the report does at least give a ballpark figure on the time needed to switch over to an alternate effluent treatment system, as well as the price tag associated with such a shift.

Again, this would be three years and close to $50 million.

Using the KSH option as an example, if work got underway in 2015, Boat Harbour might potentially be shut by around 2018-2019.

This is, of course, to say nothing of the remediation costs associated with the Herculean task of putting the 163 acre Boat Harbour site back to its original state.

Of interest, the study also ranks the Northern Pulp mill against other Canadian, Swedish and Finnish mills on a variety of effluent parameters.

The mill ranks about average for Biological Oxygen Demand and for suspended solids when compared to its Canadian counterparts.

For Nitrogen content, the mill's effluent ranked in the upper quartile against Swedish mills and the upper decile against Finnish mills.

For Colour and Chemical Oxygen Demand, the Northern Pulp mill ranks “about double the nearest comparable mill for which color data is available.”

For effluent flow, the Northern Pulp mill is “likely in the 95th percentile and about 60% higher than the median Canadian flow.”

The study does note that the data used for the Northern Pulp mill is from 2007, and that since 2008 dredging operations at Boat Harbour have improved these numbers, to a degree.

All this to say, however, that the study concludes that the Boat Harbour ecosystem would have to be a fast moving river, or even a set of rapids, in order to intake the amount of incoming effluent and maintain a healthy level of oxygen in its waters.

File attachments:

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