HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's environment minister won't say what level of emissions would lead the province to shut down Northern Pulp, a Pictou County mill that's under fire from local residents and businesses.

Randy Delorey said Thursday the government is waiting on results from a stack test scheduled for Aug. 18 before deciding what it will do about the mill, which has been at the centre of a local controversy because of smells that have come from the plant this summer.

"I think the time is better spent actually looking for and collecting the data to make those appropriate decisions," Delorey told reporters following a cabinet meeting in Halifax.

Delorey said he expects the test results by October, but he doesn't know whether they will be made public. When asked under what circumstances he would decline to release the results, Delorey cited possible "commercial restrictions."

A group called Clean Pictou Air has called on the province to do something about the particulate matter coming from the mill, though so far the province has allowed the company to continue operating.

Last November, Health Minister Leo Glavine said the emissions posed no immediate health risk to Pictou residents after testing indicated particulate matter coming from the mill was 78 per cent above the legal limit.

"We have nothing really substantial from the scientific community or the medical community to indicate that we have a problem that has to be addressed right at this moment," Glavine said Thursday.

The results of the summer emissions tests will impact whether the mill is granted future operating permits, he added.

Northern Pulp spokesman David MacKenzie said the problem lies in part with the facility's aging equipment, namely its electrostatic precipitator, which is not filtering emissions to environmental standards.

But he said a long-term solution likely won't be in place until next May, when a new precipitator unit is to be installed.

Northern Pulp employs more than 250 people in the Pictou area.