Northern Pulp says air pollution from the stacks at its pulp mill in Pictou County are now fully below environmental thresholds established by the Nova Scotia government.

“We are in compliance and we intend to stay there,” general manager Bruce Chapman told CBC News on Wednesday.

In October, the provincial government ordered the mill to produce an action plan to reduce particulate from its power boiler after tests detected 190 milligrams per cubic metre of particulate. The power boiler limit in its operating permit was 150.

Northern Pulp said tests in mid-November found 111 milligrams per cubic metre.

The province says it was briefed on what it calls “preliminary stack test results.”

“Staff will be reviewing the final report this week to determine compliance with the directive,” said Sarah Levy MacLeod, a spokesperson for the provincial Environment Department.

Changes recommended

Chapman also said the company will no longer contest air pollution limits imposed by Nova Scotia in court, although its appeal of effluent reductions stands.

Northern Pulp says tests in November showed particulate emissions from both of its boilers were below limits set in its government industrial approval earlier this year.

Chapman says it took the company a while to make operational adjustments needed to bring the power boiler into compliance.

“We hired a consultant to study the power boiler operation and he recommended we change some of the operating parameters — which we followed and the performance improved,” said Chapman.

Tests show the mill’s recovery boiler has been operating well below its emission levels since July, after the company installed a $35-million precipitator that captures particulate levels using static electricity.

Compliance an ‘abnormal’ event, says group

“It would be welcome if it’s the new normal,” said Matt Gunning of Clean the Mill, a community organization that has monitored pollution from the mill for years.

Gunning called air emission compliance an “abnormal” event at the mill. He said it’s happened only twice since the mid-2000s.

Gunning questioned the credibility of Northern Pulp, given that its court appeal of the industrial approval includes challenging air pollution limits.

“I’d take them more seriously if they weren’t fighting to double their limit on particulate levels,” he said.

Northern Pulp said its appeal was launched in the spring, before it installed its precipitator.

“We really are not contesting that limit any further,” Chapman said.