Nova Scotia’s Northern Pulp is at risk of closing its doors after Premier Stephen McNeil rejected the mill’s plea for an extension to meet environmental regulations.

McNeil said in a press conference Friday that Northern Pulp has had enough time to stop pumping waste effluent into lagoons near Pictou Landing First Nation.

“I know this could not have come at a worse time for you, but the company has failed to respect the timelines given to them five years ago,” he said. 

“To those workers and their families, please don’t despair. Our government will help and support you in this transition.”

The closure of the North Pulp mill would result in the loss of 300 jobs at the mill and about 2,400 jobs in total in the forestry sector.

“It’s a pretty dark day before Christmas,” said Pictou County Chamber of Commerce chairman Blair Van Veld.

“It’s certainly not just the mill workers that are going to be impacted and, from the chamber, our thoughts are definitely with everyone in the forestry industry and the 300 people that worked at the mill.”

Nova Scotia’s government gave Northern Pulp a deadline of January 31, 2019 to come up with a new way to dispose of the waste effluent. 

To stop pumping effluent into the lagoons, Northern Pulp proposed plans to build a pipeline that would deliver the effluent into the Northumberland Strait, a plan which was widely condemned by environmentalists for its potential effect on aquatic life.

The Nova Scotia government rejected two plans submitted by Northern Pulp to build effluent pipelines, both times saying the company did not have enough information to properly assess the environmental impact.

In a statement, Northern Pulp’s parent company Paper Excellence said the government’s inflexibility will force Northern Pulp to close.

“Northern Pulp Nova Scotia will be forced to notify its workforce and suppliers that if the government of Nova Scotia does not extend the Boat Harbour Act deadline for use of the Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility, the company will take the necessary steps to shut down the facility,” CEO Brian Baarda wrote.

“Without such decision from the government of Nova Scotia, our stakeholders need to be ready for the worst-case scenario, including the termination of more than 300 employees, and the cancellation of contracts with suppliers, contractors, and woodlot operators throughout Nova Scotia, which will have an impact on more than 11,000 jobs in Nova Scotia alone.” 

The company noted that 80% of similar facilities in North America use the lagoon system Northern Pulp currently uses, the other 20% pipe effluent into the ocean as the company is proposing.

Critics of Northern Pulp’s pipeline plan compare it to the dumping of raw sewage in cities like Victoria and Montreal, most of which still goes on to this day.

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