On July 6, 2018, there will be a sight never seen before in Nova Scotia. There is promise that Pictou will be the centre of the broadest and most unique protest, spanning the land and the sea, bringing two factions of the provincial and local population together; those who live off the land, and those who live off the sea. And there will be people from across not only the province of Nova Scotia, but also Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. There will be fishers, specifically from the lobster fisheries, both indigenous and non, environmental groups, local residents, supporters of all stripes, First Nations Chiefs and maybe even a politician or two. And all from across the three Maritime Provinces.
We talk a lot about the environment in my circles, but the situation in Pictou gets more time and attention than any other concern, because of the layers of wrong that exist there. And when I say wrong, I mean ridiculously, perhaps even criminally, wrong. And things are getting more heated and more serious there than they have been in a long time. People are going to Pictou on Friday, because Pictou is under threat, but also because Pictou is a sample of the worst kind of corruption and poor governance that threatens every community in this province.
Maybe you haven’t heard yet; Northern Pulp would like to pipe their pulp mill effluent into the Northumberland Strait, the ocean, into a lobster fishing ground, and into an area that sustains three provinces. And maybe you haven’t heard yet that the NS Minister of Environment has decided to let them use the lesser of two assessments, for no real logical reason, except to make it easier on them. Maybe you haven’t heard that the mill is 51 years old now, and when it was built it had a life expectancy of 25 years. Maybe you haven’t heard that this effluent pipe plan is likely going to cost over $100 Million, and thanks to our profoundly consistent lack of common sense in government, the Mill is not liable for their waste or its impacts, so we the tax payers will almost assuredly be paying that $100 Million on top of the $200 Million it is going to cost to clean up the damage the Mill has already caused in Boat Harbour.
People will be going to Pictou on Friday because they care about the fisheries. They realize that this plan will hurt the fisheries. The claims by Northern Pulp that their effluent will be improved drastically, is not proven, and based on their behaviour to date, not trustworthy. It is a chance not worth taking.
The ocean fishery in Nova Scotia is almost 40% of the entire fishery in Canada. It employs over 7,800 people directly. The Mill employs somewhere between 200 and 300 directly. The fisheries jobs span the entire province, and all would be impacted if word were to get out that Nova Scotia’s government permits industry to dump toxic effluent into the fishing grounds. Toxic as in furans, dioxines…. It won’t only impact the fishery in Pictou, it will impact all the fisheries across Nova Scotia, and the other Atlantic provinces who also fish in the Northumberland Strait. According to nsseafood.com, we export over $1.8 billion in seafood products, 35% of Canada’s shellfish, lobster being the most valuable export at over $950 Million. Do we know how losing such a large part of our economy will feel?
The fisheries in Nova Scotia also feed the people of Nova Scotia. It is a sustainable industry, incorporating quotas and conservationism. Fishermen in Nova Scotia are participating in a greater good too by contributing to the knowledge and science banks on our oceans. And when it comes to the lobster fishery, the rules are not worth breaking, when you consider fines and penalties for anyone who steps out of bounds when the regulations are considered. Yet…. Northern Pulp may be permitted to simply destroy an entire fishing region with their toxic industrial waste, and possibly destroy the entire industry’s reputation in not only Nova Scotia, but PEI and New Brunswick as well. The government of Canada has studied the toxicity of pulp mill effluent and found “These compounds pose a human health risk through long-term exposure via drinking water, and through bioaccumulation along the food chain.” And “Accordingly, the danger to human health from organochlorines emanating from pulp and paper mills is primarily through long-term exposure via drinking water, and bioaccumulation through the consumption of contaminated fish.” Who wants to eat fish you know is contaminated. And who trusts they can eat fish from a province with a government who would allow this?
Northern Pulp claims they will not impact the fishery, and that their pipe plan will be better environmentally than the existing effluent treatment facility in Boat Harbour. But they have no idea when lobster spawn, nor what species of fish are found in the area where they intend to pump their waste. They did not understand the ice flows in the harbour where their pipe is supposed to lay. They do not seem to know about the circular flow of waters and lack of flushing that occurs in the Northumberland Strait, never really responding to the concept that the effluent will build up in the area since insufficient quantities of new sea water will be introduced to the mix. All of these things were brought up by the fishermen and residents in the Pictou area. And yet, Northern had never made a move to look at these concerns. When the PEI government asked the questions, they seemed surprised that anyone in government would considered these things and they could not answer.
Or, as I have thought many times, they know the answers and prefer to look foolish rather than answer real questions that may hamper their goals. Then there was the time when Stantec suddenly realized through a study that ice scour will be detrimental to their pipe. The same ice scour that has existed in the pipe’s path forever. Today it was revealed that sonar disclosed a collapsed pier and a shipwreck. I’m betting the farm, the kids and the neighbor’s cow these things are all mapped in historical maps, and boating charts and government drawings, etc and would have easily been accessed or noticed all along if the studying of the harbour had occurred prior to the 11th hour.
There is also a tourism industry to consider. Beaches, and other seaside attractions along the North Shore will be impacted by effluent and the ordeal of environmental risks to humans not to mention the odor that comes with it. Recreational fishing will be impacted in the rivers along the Strait as well as in the Strait itself. The communities that rely on tourists seeking the beauty and breezes of being next to the ocean, will be devastated by the loss of tourists who seek out other clearer shores and cleaner breezes.
We see what is happening in our forests, and how our crown land has become a free for all for clear cuts and pulp farming. We know Glyphosate is been sprayed on our forests and therefore our ground water and wildlife. I know far too many people who can see that the forestry industry and our species at risk would flourish if the Mill’s contractors were required to forest sustainably. But the clear cut is the best way for the Mill, and so the rest of us have had to endure their poor practices, because God forbid the Mill has to consider our environment.
And the people of Pictou… I personally feel ire when I consider what these folks have had to endure for decades. The shame of our governments, past and present, that have failed to act on and enforce the regulations, favouring instead to force this blight against the humans that have to live near and exist in its farting and blowing of cancerous and noxious emissions, and are now expected to see their lives further infringed on as more of their livelihoods are placed in harm’s way.
The money being sunk into this industry is sinful in a province that cannot afford to properly look after their sick and elderly, or build schools, hospitals and roads to replace those that have been deteriorating almost as long as the mill existed. Do we really want our tax dollars used to lengthen the long and slow death of this well past its best before date monster? In an online poll recently, the question was asked, spend whatever it takes or don’t spend another dime? Only one person out of all the responses said spend.
So why are people opposed to this pipe going to Pictou on Friday? Why are they so sure it will be bad for the environment, the fisheries? Because they have seen how Northern Pulp works and how they how they have been ignoring the locals to date. They have experienced the impacts of Northern’s “commitment to the community and the environment” for all the years they have been operating the Pictou Mill. They have been witness to our government turning a blind eye and failing to enforce the regulations in place intended to protect the people and the environment. They see their local councillors conflicted in their assessments of what is good for their communities, influence by commerce chambers and associations populated by Mill managers and spokespeople and a former premier sitting at the helm of the corporation, after propping them up with taxpayer dollars and concessions. They know the current Premier’s right hand man is a former lawyer for the Mill. They know the cleanup of Boat Harbour requires a higher level of assessment than this 10 km pipe extending across the harbour, through the channel, extending into the Strait, and dumping less cooled, less settled and less stabilized waste than was ever released out of Boat Harbour. They know that Northern has been making statements and profoundly inaccurate assertions about the viability of this pipe idea, right from the get go, without science or studies to support their claims, and now Northern has had to back up and check themselves. And the people have had enough.
People from across the province have been getting more and more informed. The other provinces are not willing to watch their fisheries be harmed. And it is pretty apparent this plan is a poorly thought out plot that was never going to be acceptable to the locals, let alone the rest of the Maritimes. I will be there on Friday, with friends and family. I believe in standing up for each other against the almighty corporate dollar when we can see how greed has confiscated our right to health and wellness. I believe in standing next to my fellow Nova Scotians, when it helps make the government pay attention to what matters, who lives here and why they should remember in the end, they work for us.
Land and Sea Rally – July 6, in Pictou, NS 12 noon on the waterfront