Transition team member supports idea of 'hot idle' for Northern Pulp, but province hasn't received a proposal for it
ABERCROMBIE, N.S. -- On a typical day, about 20 log trucks will make their way through the gates of Elmsdale Lumber -- a good-sized player in Nova Scotia’s forestry industry -- even amid uncertain times.
The province's decision last month not to allow Northern Pulp to continue pumping millions of litres of wastewater into Boat Harbour marks the end of the big plant and thousands of jobs associated with it.
The government has pledged retraining and employment sessions to help them transition and those will start next week.
It has also appointed a team, including the president of Elmsdale Lumber, who says the company is considering putting Northern Pulp into "hot idle" mode -- keeping water circulating through the pipes, even after it's shut down.
"So, in the Northern Pulp plant, there's literally hundreds of miles of pipe," said Robin Wilber, the president of Elmsdale Lumber. "I don't think they have time to drain them all, so it's an attempt to save the asset."
While pleased with the appointment of a transition team and a $50 million transition fund, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston says details have been sorely lacking.
The possibility of a hot idle, he says, is more proof that the rumour mills are working overtime.
"So, I don't know what it means, but what I do know is the fact that these types of discussions are out there is trying to fill the void that the government has left," Houston said.
Late Monday afternoon, the chief of the Pictou Landing First Nation said no one has consulted them about continuing to dump into Boat Harbour -- even if it’s little more than warm water.
“As far as I am aware no notice to consult has been issued in respect of a request by Northern Pulp to the Province to allow it to discharge any amount of wastewater into Boat Harbour from the mill, even if it is wastewater used only in the power boiler or other non-pulping parts of the mill,” Chief Andrea Paul of Pictou Landing First Nation said in a statement.
As far as Paul is concerned, any continued operation after Jan. 31 – even a hot idle – would require government approval.
"PLFN considers that any water discharged by the pulp mill, even it is only from its power boiler, is effluent under the federal Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations and the Boat Harbour Act and any discharge of wastewater, even from an idling pulp mill, into Boat Harbour after Jan. 31, 2020, would violate the Act," the statement said. "Even if discharging the wastewater did not violate the Boat Harbour Act, Northern Pulp would need to apply to NS Environment for a new industrial approval to allow it to continue to operate the mill even if it intends on idling only. Its existing industrial approval expires on Jan. 31, 2020."
The province says it knows nothing about a hot idle, and the company didn't respond to an inquiry Monday morning.
Editors note: In a statement released Tuesday morning, Kelliann Dean, the forestry transition team lead, said that Robin Wilber is "no longer part of the transition team."