HALIFAX - The leader of a Nova Scotia First Nation said she is cautiously optimistic after the provincial government tabled legislation Friday to close an effluent treatment facility in Pictou County by January 2020.
"We've been given promises this was going to happen, however this is the first time that something has actually been put into a bill," said Chief Andrea Paul of the Pictou Landing First Nation. "That part was very important for us and it gives us hope."
The bill is part of an agreement reached last June with the Pictou Landing First Nation to deal with effluent from the plant. The deal ended a blockade that went up after a leak was found in a pipe carrying wastewater from the nearby Northern Pulp mill to the treatment facility in Boat Harbour.
The Pictou Landing First Nation has long alleged that effluent from the mill was polluting the harbour.
"This will not be a quick fix," said Internal Services Minister Labi Kousoulis. "It will take several years to complete our remediation planning and several more years to complete the remediation itself."
The government said $52.3 million has been budgeted for the remediation of the Boat Harbour site.
Paul said she was also encouraged that the government made a financial commitment on the cleanup.
"This isn't just a promise to Pictou Landing, it's also a promise to the greater community," she said.
Kousoulis said it hasn't been determined yet who would pay the cost of building a new treatment facility once the current one is closed.
"That will be in discussions with the mill," he said.
Kousoulis said his department had informed Northern Pulp on Thursday that the legislation was coming.
A call to Northern Pulp general manager Bruce Chapman was not returned Friday.
Ken Swain of Nova Scotia Lands said some preliminary work would likely be done this year, although a pilot approval would be needed from the Environment Department to actually begin early remediation, anticipated for next year.
Swain said there will be a number of risk assessments done to determine how the contaminants will be removed and how they will be dealt with.
"We are looking at either destroying them through the best technology available or removing them and encapsulating them in a secure landfill somewhere," said Swain.