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Exclusive: All reports and directives from Nova Scotia Environment on Northern Pulp's emissions. 1989-2014

Sum total of NS Environment's directives to Northern Pulp: Three

by Miles Howe

In a rare moment in the last 47 years, the air did not smell like cancer-causing, headache inducing, rotten egg-sulphur earlier in June 2014, when a burst pipe rendered the Northen Pulp mill inoperational. [Photo: Miles Howe]
In a rare moment in the last 47 years, the air did not smell like cancer-causing, headache inducing, rotten egg-sulphur earlier in June 2014, when a burst pipe rendered the Northen Pulp mill inoperational. [Photo: Miles Howe]

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Through an Access to Information request to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment, the Halifax Media Co-op has been given copies of “any and all departmental enforcement actions with Northern Pulp (or previous owners of Abercrombie Point Mill) regarding air and/or smokestack and/or boiler emissions from 1989-2014.”

The list of actions, of which there are three, are included in their entirety as an attachment to this document.

Briefly, an inspection report written on February 20th, 2012, by Inspector Specialist Marc Theriault noted that the mill was in non-compliance with the installation of power boiler air pollution control equipment. This finding resulted in Theriault issuing a directive, under the Environment Act, that same day.

Theriault required that the mill “provide written notification that the construction or installation of the power boiler air pollution control equipment has been completed.”

In his Directive to Northern Pulp, Theriault also noted that the mill had broken Prohibition section 67 of the Environment Act, in that “No person shall knowingly release or permit the release into the environment of a substance in an amount, concentration or level or at a rate of release that causes or may cause an adverse effect...”

There are certainly many troubling angles to this first report, the least of which involve Northern Pulp most likely just not installing power boiler air pollution control equipment. This is probably not something just forgotten, like not picking up eggs at the grocery story. This was probably knowingly not installed.

That the Department of Environment's subsequent reaction amounts to: 'Well, see that you get this done then, and write us when you're finished. Oh, and if you need more time, just try and get permission, ok?', is also disturbing. Substance Emission and Particulate Levels at the mill, when self-reported, are often thousands of percentage points over federal thresholds.

The Department of Environment's response to this, on its facebook page, has been to note that the “Environment Act has an approach to work with companies/individuals to achieve compliance.”

In the meantime, it would appear that the general area of Pictou County – minus the mill – is little more than a petri dish.

The second inspection report, dated March 7th, 2013, also written by Theriault, notes that “Stantec's Fall 2012 Source Emissions Testing Report...indicates particulate emissions exceeded the limit outlined...[for] total reduced sulphur concentrations.”

The USA's Environmental Protection Agency notes that Sulphur Dioxide, especially when combined with other particulate matter (like that which comes out of Northern Pulp's stacks on a daily basis), can cause or worsen respiratory diseases, can aggravate existing heart disease and can lead to premature death.

That Pictou County is the 'sick man of Nova Scotia', leading the already-ill province in cancer, respiratory and cardiac statistics, is also well known.

Theriault's second directive, attached to the March 7th report, is for Northern Pulp to “complete an engineering study for the recovery boiler air pollution equipment...and provide an implementation schedule by September 30, 2013.”

But by no means stop sending death-bringing Sulphur Dioxide into the atmosphere in levels that exceed the agreed-upon limits.

Which does raise the question; why set limits at all? To employ Theriault?

Theriault's third report is dated November 4th, 2013. In this one, the inspector basically notes that while Northern Pulp has done a whole lot of great work and are trying really hard, shoot, they're still exceeding those pesky Total Reduced Sulphur limits.

Theriault's November 4th directive instructs Northern Pulp, in no uncertain terms, to provide data on the total reduced sulphur levels (had they stopped even reporting by this point?!) and provide a detailed description of the work being done to improve sulphur emissions. And do it on a monthly basis, darn it!

Or else...another directive....

Please see the attached reports.

Nova Scotia Department of Environments actions related to Northern Pulp

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