The Northern Pulp Mill in Pictou County, N.S. is about to shutdown temporarily for changes aimed at bringing it in-line with pollution standards, but opposition groups say the timing still stinks.

Starting Saturday, the mill at Abercrombie Point will undergo a “maintenance shutdown” as crews install a precipitator.

The company says the ten-storey piece of equipment — which puts an electric charge into particulate matter to prevent it from escaping the smokestack — should bring it in-line with provincial rules.

“There will still be a plume. It will still be visible because most of the plume is water vapour that comes off of the recovery boiler and the recovery boiler scrubber,” said Bruce Chapman, the mill’s general manager.

The precipitator won’t improve the mill’s odour, but the company has plans to improve that in coming years as part of its modernization projects, he said.

Chapman said he expects the mill to be back in operation by the end of June.

The precipitator, however, was supposed to be in place by the end of May, and opposition group Clean The Mill says testing the equipment will take even more time.

“The precipitator has to be up and running for you to know if it’s working, but I think that what’s not being mentioned, is that Northern Pulp missed their deadline by so much that now the government had to revise the rules,” said Clean The Mill spokesperson Matt Gunning.

A new Industrial Approval permit from the provincial government contains more stringent guidelines for the mill’s operations — and it’s under appeal by both a community group and the mill itself.

“We appealed because there are clauses in there that just don’t allow us to survive long-term,” Chapman said.

A government decision on the appeal is expected by June 9.

“What they’re being asked to do, is what other mills are required to do, and other mills are doing it,” Gunning said.