The “No Pipe” land and sea rally drew support from a gamut of people from across all the Maritime provinces. Fishermen, environmentalists – and many concerned citizens gathered in the town of Pictou along the Pictou Marina Quay, and on the waters of the Northumberland Strait in boats, to protest Northern Pulp’s proposed plan to replace its current pulp effluent treatment system.
Northern Pulp has proposed a system that will entail the release of effluent into the Northumberland Strait, as a replacement for its current treatment infrastructure in Boat Harbour.
Among those united under the “No Pipe” banner floating on the waves of the Northumberland Strait were a couple of fishermen from Antigonish County who are calling for more awareness, and for the federal government to step in and provide a more rigorous environmental assessment for the proposed effluent-emitting pipeline, that if built, will release treated effluent directly into the waters of the Strait.
Dylan Beaton, a fisherman from William’s Point, was taken aback and genuinely impressed with the amount of support from the broader community.
“There was way more support than we expected, especially from the community,” Beaton wrote, in a correspondence with the Casket. “We knew other fishermen were concerned, but we didn’t realize that the non-fishing community would draw such a large crowd.”
Tyler Grant was also on the water, and was also impressed with the turnout, noting that “seeing the amount of boats entering Pictou Harbour was an amazing thing. We were there fairly early, and looking from east to west, you could see ships coming in steadily from both directions – it was great to see everyone unite for that.”
“I figured there would be a good turnout on the water, but I didn’t think there would be that many boats in the harbour – I don’t think Pictou Harbour has ever seen that much boat traffic at once.”
Grant said although he wasn’t entirely familiar with what went on, on terra firma, when his boat passed close to the waterfront, he saw great deal of activity, with crowds of up to 3,500 people showing their support.
Beaton said he and many other fishermen in the area are concerned that Northern Pulp is not seeking enough input from the fishing community in its plans to implement a new treatment system for effluent from its pulp processes.
“Basically, they decide to disregard the concerns of the biggest export industry in Nova Scotia,” Beaton said.
Grant was optimistic about last Friday’s rally, noting that he was glad it has helped spread awareness.
“Every fisherman in the Strait knows what’s going on, and for that many people to come together, it opens the issue up to the public – and to many people who may not have known,” Grant said.
“I think it would be hard to outright ignore such a large rally of voters,” Beaton said. “Hopefully it steers the government in a better direction.”
Speaking of the government, Friday’s rally was just as much about getting the Government of Nova Scotia to listen as it was to get the attention of Northern Pulp.
“So far, our government hasn’t said much … and the plans the pulp mill have made haven’t been submitted to the government for assessment,” Grant said. “Once they submit the plans, I’m hoping to see the government step up and say something. It’s outrageous, and the government has to step in and do something.”
Beaton asserted that the provincial government being in charge of the environmental assessment is inadequate, because it would constitute a conflict of interest, seeing as the government is responsible for the release of effluent until 2020, when Boat Harbour is mandated to be shut down.
Beaton was referring to the current wastewater lagoon in Boat Harbour, a treatment system that was approved by the provincial government in the late 1960s – ne that is heavily polluted with contaminants.
“Not only do they have to deal with the effluent, … they are the ones who choose if the environmental assessment is adequate,” Beaton said.
Beaton’s insistence that the federal government must implement a more rigorous environment assessment is echoed by the Friends of the Northumberland Strait, a Picto County-based group that has publically asserted that the rigors of a federal assessment are necessary to ensure the environmental integrity of the Strait.
The provincial government is working on a cleanup plan for Boat Harbour that is expected to take three to four years. The province has allocated $133 million for the cleanup of Boat Harbour.
Friday’s rally was held to show the enormity of public concern surrounding the plans to create a new effluent disposal system that involves releasing treated pulp effluent into the Strait. Broad public concern is one of the criteria the federal government will consider, when deciding how to designate the project.