HALIFAX -- Tests conducted last month at the Northern Pulp mill in Nova Scotia show the operation was still spewing emissions above legal limits, the province's Environment Department said Friday.

The tests were completed while the mill was operational Aug. 26 by consulting firm Stantec and submitted to the province within 30 days, as per a government compliance order issued in August.

The legally binding order gives the paper mill in Abercrombie Point near Pictou until May 30 to get its air quality emissions in line or face closure.

The government said results from the latest tests show the mill's recovery and power boilers continue to spew emissions above legal limits, though some improvement has been made in the amount of particulate coming from the recovery boiler.

"It's good news because the emissions are moving in the right direction," said Environment Minister Randy Delorey. "But of course, we don't want to see increases in the power boiler emissions and that's what the tests showed."

Delorey said the recovery boiler recorded emissions that were 78 per cent over legal limits last year, but that's now down to 45 per cent over those limits.

The mill's continued operation has angered many Pictou residents, with some calling for its immediate closure until it deals with its aging smoke stacks.

But company officials have said the cost of such a move would result in the operation shutting down permanently, resulting in a major loss of jobs.

Karla MacFarlane, the Progressive Conservative member for the riding of Pictou West, said the latest results are little consolation for residents who want to see a quick resolution.

"I do know that the mill is working hard," she said. "But this government needs to address it so there is complete clean air for Pictou."

The mill is currently shut down for maintenance and is expected to address problems with the power boiler during the downtime.

Air quality testing will be conducted again next month.

The Environment Department is working on a new industrial approval for the mill for January that will contain more stringent limits on emissions and the company will be expected to meet those standards by the May deadline.

Much of the company's hopes for improvement lies with the installation of a new electrostatic precipitator which is expected to be completed by late May.