Skip to content

NEWS: Pictou Landing First Nation and mill wastewaster in Boat Harbour, NS

The Halifax Media Co-op notes, “An estimated (trillion) litres of effluent from the Abercrombie Pulp and Paper Mill – currently owned by Northern Pulp — have flowed into Boat Harbour (in Pictou County, Nova Scotia), and the surrounding area since 1966, according to a 2009 King’s College report, causing untold environmental and health damage.”

As further explained by The Coast, “Since 1967, the (mill’s) wastewater has flowed into Boat Harbour, a quiet estuary near Pictou Landing, two kilometres east of the mill. There, oxygen is added to the water, the solids are settled out and the water makes its way to the Northumberland Strait over about 30 days. Boat Harbour borders a native reserve, the Pictou Landing First Nation. (In 1965) the federal government gave the province permission to treat the mill’s waste in Boat Harbour. In December 2008 the band demanded the province clean up Boat Harbour and put the waste somewhere else. The province agreed. (But) it will cost lots of money. A new facility will cost about $100 million, and dredging Boat Harbour of its toxic sediments will cost another $7 to $12 million. …Nearly a trillion litres of wastewater have gone into the lagoon over the years. To see that much water go over Niagara Falls, you would have to watch it 24 hours a day, for two years. All that toxic water has a profound effect on Boat Harbour and the people who live around it.”

In a breaking news story, HMC reports, “The provincial government has drafted an offer of $3 million to the Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) in return for the Band postponing their lawsuit against the province for at least two years, according to documents obtained by the Halifax Media Co-op. The draft offer stems from a 2010 PLFN lawsuit against the province of Nova Scotia, launched due to the province’s failure to clean up Boat Harbour. …The draft ‘Capacity Building Agreement’ between the province of Nova Scotia and the Pictou Landing Indian Band notes that the provincial government has agreed to pay $3 million dollars to the band, ostensibly for ‘Capacity Building’ – not for the clean-up of Boat Harbour, and not for paying for the Band’s steadily increasing legal fees.”

Significantly, “The document also notes that the money hinges on the band not attempting in any way to halt the on-going effluent dumping and preventing its members from doing the same.”

“A second internal band document obtained by HMC notes that the PLFN is ‘facing a financial crisis’, and that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada itself acknowledges that the Band is underfunded. The document notes that the PLFN’s lawsuit cannot continue, due to lack of funding, and that there have been no outside offers of assistance to continue the legal battle. The $3 million is specifically not to be used to fund the lawsuit.”

“If this capacity building agreement is accepted by the Band, $3 million will have bought their silence for the next 2 years, and dumping looks set to continue. If the agreement is rejected, according to the second document, the lawsuit has drained the Band’s coffers, and unless a legal champion for the cause can be found, dumping looks like it will continue anyway.”

The full Halifax Media Co-op article by Miles Howe is at

The Council of Canadians is closely following these developments and is expressing its solidarity with the Pictou Landing First Nation.

In November 2010, the St. John’s Telegram reported that, “Ken Kavanagh, a retired teacher from Bell Island, a Council of Canadians spokesman and chairman of the Sandy Pond Alliance opposing use of a 38-hectare lake for mine tailings in Long Harbour, says while the industries and times are different, there is a similarity with Boat Harbour — the economic pressure placed on residents to compromise the environment for jobs.” The Boat Harbour pulp and paper mill brought the promise of jobs in desperate times. But as a cheap way of dealing with its wastewater, the tidal lagoon was polluted with the mill’s waste – dioxins, furans, chloride, mercury and other heavy metals. “After 40 years, he wonders if the environmental regime is more sound today. ‘It’s stacked against the community and ordinary citizens,’ he says. …He said the government is allowing, through its regulations and acceptance of environmental assessments, the act of taking a beautiful, pristine pond and destroying it with toxic waste. ‘Things haven’t changed a great deal,’ Kavanagh says.”

More soon.