Pictou, N.S., resident Terry Dunbrack is keenly aware of the Northern Pulp mill’s presence in his community.

“That particulate matter that they’re spewing out gets into my lungs and the lungs of everybody else and eventually it causes harm,” Dunbrack told CBC’s Information Morning, adding that the Nova Scotia Lung Association and doctors in the area have attested to that.

Dunbrack is concerned with the latest test results from June, which show the mill is emitting over 10 per cent over the acceptable limit for emissions according to the terms and conditions of the province’s industrial approval.

‘Optimistic’ about fix

But Northern Pulp is “optimistic” it will be able to fix its power-boiler problems during an annual shutdown in September, and so is the province’s environment minister.

Northern Pulp’s communications manager, Kathy Cloutier, said it’s an issue Northern Pulp takes seriously.

Well nobody wants to be over an industrial approval limit,” Cloutier said. “That’s why when we first found that there was a pattern that we couldn’t quite understand back in the fall of 2015, that immediate steps [were taken] to take on a consultant, a specialist in the area.”

The mill is upgrading equipment from 2011 and getting a better understanding of how the power boiler works. They will try to fix the problem during an annual ten-day shutdown next month.

“It’s not a quick fix. We know that,” Cloutier said. “We were hopeful that we would have it contained sooner rather than later.”

‘This is different’

Last year the company installed a new $35-million precipitator to deal with emissions.

Provincial Environment Minister Margaret Miller said the new precipitator is still operating well, but the power boiler is not.

“This is different. This is a power boiler which obviously still creates a bit of a problem, but … we have every expectation, as they have in the past, that Northern Pulp will comply with the directives and it will be cleaned up as soon as possible.”

‘First you have warnings’

Two directives and one warning report have been issued for past problems, Miller said. One investigation is ongoing.

“You have the directives, you have a warning. And then it goes from there to directives, summary offence tickets,” Miller said. “And then finally it would be prosecution or ministerial orders.”

All of this doesn’t sit well with Dunbrack.

“If I was to speed, and get caught two of every five times that I was driving, I wouldn’t get to keep my licence,” he said. “Northern Pulp gets to exceed emissions two of the last five times [and] they’re just told that, ‘OK, well just keep trying to improve.'”