The Nova Scotia government is looking for someone who can study the pulp mill waste treatment plant in Boat Harbour.

The province has issued a request for proposal for a hydrogeological study and a geotechnical and contaminant assessment.

Labi Kousoulis, minister of internal services, says the assessments and test will help planners better understand surface and groundwater flow, topography and the condition of the basin.

“This is a big cleanup,” he said.

The data obtained from this study will be used in a trial cleanup and will “give us the information we need to understand what the entire cleanup and remediation will be,” said Kousoulis.

In April, the province announced plans to shut the plant by 2020 and set $50 million aside to begin cleaning the plant.

The total cost of the cleanup is not known.

The province is using the same model that was used to clean up the Sydney tar ponds. That cleanup cost $400 million, but officials believe Boat Harbour is a smaller job.

The cleanup could take up to 10 years to complete.

Currently, a pipe carries 90 million litres of pulp mill waste a day from the Northern Pulp mill at Abercrombie Point, under the East River, to the treatment facility on the Pictou Landing First Nation.

In June 2014, effluent from Northern Pulp was discovered leaking from the pipeline.

What will happen when Boat Harbour closes?

The province owns the facility and has leased it to mill operators since 1967. Agreements never required the mill to clean up its effluent.

Once the current facility closes, how and where the effluent will be treated, as well as who will pay for it, is not known. The province and the mill are in early talks about what what will happen when Boat Harbour closes.

“We need to have a treatment plant that works for us in 2020, so we are early in the design, location stage,” said Bruce Chapman, Northern Pulp’s general manager.