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Exclusive: 2011 evaluation shows no monitoring of mill effluent as it enters Boat Harbour

Access to Information reveals lack of monitoring stations, chemical composition disclosure from Pictou County's Northern Pulp.

by Miles Howe

The Aerated Stabilization Basin. When effluent goes in, it tests above CCME Freshwater Aquatic Life guidelines for a variety of metals. There is no monitoring of the effluent when it comes out, just metres from the First Nation community of Pictou Landing. [Photo: Miles Howe]
The Aerated Stabilization Basin. When effluent goes in, it tests above CCME Freshwater Aquatic Life guidelines for a variety of metals. There is no monitoring of the effluent when it comes out, just metres from the First Nation community of Pictou Landing. [Photo: Miles Howe]

K'JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Through an Access to Information request, the Halifax Media Co-op has obtained a hydrogeological and hydrological evaluation of the Boat Harbour treatment facility undertaken by Stantec Consulting Ltd, prepared for the Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation, in 2011.

Northern Pulp – itself an entity now under ownership of the massive Indonesian-based conglomerate Asia Pulp and Paper – is only the latest owner of the plagued Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper mill, which since 1967 has dumped raw effluent into Boat Harbour, which was once a tidal estuary located along the Northern coast of Nova Scotia.

After being piped out of the Abercrombie mill, the raw effluent runs into a settling pond and then an aerated stabilization basin (ASB), before flowing downstream into the lagoon of Boat Harbour and then into the Northumberland Straight.

The Boat Harbour lagoon is only metres away from the Pictou Landing First Nation community, as well as numerous settler homes in the area.

The hydrogeological and hydrological evaluation reveals an alarming – and total - lack of monitoring of the effluent as it exits the ASB into Boat Harbour.

This is despite the fact that when the effluent enters the ASB, Stantec found that: “some or all effluent discharge samples collected to date” exceed the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guidelines for the Protection of Freshwater Aquatic Life (FAL) for concentrations of “nitrate, ammonia, aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, thalium and zinc.”

Quite simply, the Stantec evaluation found:

“no groundwater monitoring points are present down-gradient of the settling basin to assess the potential for seepage from this structure, and potential impacts to shallow groundwater; and

No surface monitoring points are present downstream of the settling basin to assess potential seepage, and subsequent discharge and potential impacts to surface water on the site, from this structure."

Aside from the CCME FAL guidelines, Stantec also noted that their evaluation would have been facilitated had Northern Pulp provided the chemical characterization of the mill effluent.

Stantec also noted that:

“No mill effluent (source) chemical characterization has been completed, which would allow for the determination of key indicator parameters associated with the mill effluent.”

In light of the lack of monitoring stations - and actual chemical content of the substance which they were testing for - Stantec comes to some disturbing conclusions, especially as they concern residents and wildlife in proximity to the mill and Boat Harbour.

Namely:

“There is no analytical data demonstrating that metal concentrations, which exceed the CCME FAL guidelines at the sludge disposal cell underdrain network discharge to the ASB, do not occur at the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility discharge compliance location (Point C)."

The evaluation also notes that adjacent ponds (Points 1 and 2 in the accompanying evaluation) should also be tested, and currently are not.

The full evaluation can be read here and includes an appendix with images and maps:

Hydrogeological and Hydrological Evaluation - Boat Harbour Treatment Facility

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Comments

Stantec

Good digging.

I will read the report later.

Pretty damning considering that Stantec is anything but a hawk on criticism of industry.

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