One of Canada’s most prominent businessmen is speaking out about the environmental problems at the Northern Pulp mill in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County.
Paul Sobey says he is fed up with the emissions and effluent from the mill and isn’t satisfied with the Nova Scotia government's response.
Sobey says he and others from the Clean the Mill group took their environmental and health concerns directly to Premier Stephen McNeil and Environment Minister Randy Delorey in December 2013, and even brought one of their own soil test results.
“We asked the government if they had any results and they indicated that they were going to review it,” says Sobey.
Delorey says the province did conduct soil tests months later, in the spring of 2014, but Sobey says no test results were ever provided to him or the group.
Sobey says he and the Clean the Mill group became frustrated as they tried to secure solid information from the province so they decided to do the job themselves. They tried to gain access to Boat Harbour, which is owned by taxpayers, but they were denied access to do their own testing.
“I don’t believe public access, and there’s a number of reasons for that, I think not the least of which would be public safety,” says Delorey.
Sobey says he and the group had soil samples from seven sites just outside Boat Harbour tested instead, beyond the treatment facility.
“Those results of that test showed and confirmed the presence of heavy metals including cadmium, chromium, arsenic and, yes, mercury,” he says.
Delorey says government tests done this past spring were conducted at Site D at Boat Harbour.
“As far as a category, I believe there were some heavy metals contained in it,” he confirms.
Sobey says he tried to share his results with the province, but they told him he had to share his findings with Northern Pulp.
According to the Nova Scotia government, $111 million in provincial tax dollars was approved to help the mill in Abercrombie Point since 2009, and an additional $28 million from the federal government.
Sobey says Dave Gunning, a member of the Clean the Mill group, received a letter from the provincial government this week, stating that the province turned down a recent request from the mill for more money.
“Our government has not approved recent requests by the pulp mill because we believe it is not the role of the provincial government to use taxpayers’ money in this manner,” said Delorey in the letter.
Tests conducted last year showed the mill was producing emissions that were 78 per cent above legal limits, but the company says there has been a 25 per cent improvement in particulate levels since then.
In August, the Nova Scotia government issued a compliance order giving Northern Pulp a deadline of May 30 to get its air quality emissions in line, or be forced to shut down.
Northern Pulp insists things will improve when new equipment arrives next spring.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant