Northern Pulp is inviting the public to discuss its mill operation at information sessions in Pictou County Wednesday and Thursday.

The provincially-mandated consultation sessions are required if the mill is to renew approval for its bleached kraft mill and effluent treatment system.

Mill officials admit they haven’t done a good job communicating their message clearly.

“Our product is sought after all over the world. It’s one of the best kraft pulps that you can find, so we’re building on that foundation with markets to improve the operation and part of that is improving the environment and that’s what this is about here today,” says David Kerr, vice-president of Paper Excellence.

Tests conducted last year showed the mill at Abercrombie Point 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, but the environmental impact of the pulp mill has become a major issue in Pictou County.

Particulate emissions from the stacks continue to be above acceptable levels and more testing is being carried out this week.

Organizers with the Clean the Mill group say they may attend the open house, but say it won’t shed new light on the issue.

“Consultation, we feel, has been ongoing fairly heavily for over a year now,” says Matt Gunning, a member of the Clean the Mill group. “They certainly should know where we stand.”

People who attended Wednesday’s session at the Pictou County Wellness Centre say they wanted to hear what the company had to say about the mill.

“This has given us an opportunity to be able to speak directly with the employees and with union and management, to be able to converse on just what ways we can move forward,” says Stellarton councillor Ken Francis.

“People become very passionate about issues, but the issue of jobs is pretty passionate to our residents as well,” says retired Michelin worker Don Taylor.

Thursday’s open house will take place from noon to 9 p.m. at the deCoste in Pictou. 

The final deadline for public comment is Nov. 7.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh