The province of Nova Scotia has set aside $50 million to begin cleaning up the pulp mill waste treatment plant in Boat Harbour, but there are still questions about where the effluent will be treated after the plant is taken offline.

“Today’s legislation will call for the closure of the Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility by January 2020,” Labi Kousoulis, Minister of Internal Services, said Friday.

“I know that seems like a long time, but there is no quick fix to Boat Harbour. It will take several years to complete our remediation planning and several more years to complete the remediation itself.”

Kousoulis said remediation planning is well underway.

The cleanup could take up to 10 years to complete.

Ken Swain with the Department of Internal Services said the Nova Scotia government cut short the lease that would have allowed Northern Pulp to operate the treatment facility until Dec. 31, 2030.

“The mill’s expectation, I believe, would have been to enjoy the lease until that date. However, that was not consistent with the promise that was made by the province to the community to close Boat Harbour within a reasonable time frame,” said Swain.

Shortened lease

As a result, the lease was shortened by about 11 years.

Swain, who is overseeing the Boat Harbour remediation, was formerly the project director of the Sydney Tar Ponds and coke ovens cleanup.

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.

Chief Andrea Paul said she is happy the project is finally getting started.

“I feel pretty confident with the discussions that we’ve had and to the work that we’ve been doing and know that the start up work is going to be happening within this year,” she said.

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

The leak led protesters to set up a blockade, which ended once the province reached an agreement with the Pictou Landing First Nation to shut down the Boat Harbour plant.

The pipe also broke in 2008, which caused a lengthy shutdown of the mill.

Representatives from Northern Pulp were absent from Friday’s press conference. Kousoulis said the government has not consulted with the company about where the mill will deliver its effluent, but said that consultation will begin now.