Assessment of Nova Scotia mill's effluent plan proper according to rules: deputy

Nova Scotia's deputy environment minister says her decision on the type of environmental assessment needed for a proposed effluent treatment plant for the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County was based on the province's environmental regulations and the project description.

Frances Martin says it was clear to her that the project was a Class 1 assessment instead of the more rigorous Class 2 under the rules, because it is an addition to an existing mill.

Martin says Class 2 assessments are used in cases of larger projects, such as the building of a petro-chemical plant or pulp mill.

She told the legislature's public accounts committee the Class 1 assessment will be rigorous and will give the public and experts ample opportunity to provide input before a final decision is made.

Local fishermen, Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq chiefs and Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan have all voiced concerns about Northern Pulp's plan, which will see it pump effluent into the Northumberland Strait, saying it could have unintended consequences for fisheries in the area.

The mill, which is across the strait from eastern P.E.I., is to submit an environmental assessment for its proposed treatment facility to the Nova Scotia Environment Department this summer, likely in July.

The Pictou mill has been told by the province to replace its current effluent treatment plant by 2020.