Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, has teamed up with Friends of the Northumberland Strait (FONS) to build the case against Northern Pulp’s plan to pump millions of litres of treated pulp effluent into the prime fishing grounds of the Northumberland Strait daily.
“We’re glad to join forces with Friends of the Northumberland Strait and eager to get to work to protect the sensitive environment of the Northumberland Strait, to keep it vital and healthy for future generations,” says lawyer James Gunvaldsen Klaassen of Ecojustice’s new Atlantic office.
“Ecojustice’s Atlantic office just opened up a few months ago, and Friends of the Northumberland Strait is our first official client,” says lawyer Sarah McDonald. “We’re happy to be working with FONS on an issue of such significance to communities all around the Northumberland Strait.”
Friends of the Northumberland Strait came together last November in response to Northern Pulp’s proposed project. “We are honoured and thrilled to have this powerhouse environmental law organization behind us,” says FONS president Jill Graham-Scanlan. “We have worked hard as an organization to inform citizens about what is at stake and build public support. To have Ecojustice offer free legal support is a testament to the importance of the issue and the overwhelming public concern about Northern Pulp’s proposed project.”
Northern Pulp’s proposed new effluent treatment system would see 70-90 million litres of treated pulp mill waste discharged daily into the Northumberland Strait’s delicate ecosystem. The Strait is home to rich fisheries and spawning grounds of many types of marine life, including lobster, scallops, herring, tuna and Atlantic salmon. The livelihood of over 3000 fishermen from three provinces, a First Nation commercial and food fishery, a $200 million Northumberland tourism economy, and a $65 million sport fishing industry are at risk. So are local businesses, property values, and quality of life for local residents.
Northern Pulp’s proposed new system is planned to replace the existing Boat Harbour treatment facility that will be closed and begin environmental clean-up in 2020 in compliance with the Nova Scotia Boat Harbour Act.
Since Northern Pulp’s announcement in early July that their original pipe route and outfall location would need modification, things have gone quiet with mill officials. “While awaiting an announcement on Northern Pulp’s next move, we’ve been using our time wisely by preparing for the upcoming environmental assessment, “says Graham-Scanlan. “With Ecojustice’s advice and resources, we are confident FONS can make a very strong case against discharging treated pulp effluent into the Northumberland Strait.
Ecojustice has five offices across Canada, including its new Atlantic office in Halifax. For nearly 30 years, Ecojustice has used the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.
Over the past few years, Ecojustice has pushed hard for a stronger Fisheries Act, including provisions to protect fish habitat and recognition of cumulative impacts. The organization sees the situation fishers are facing now with Northern Pulp’s plans as a prime example of the need for broad, precautionary and enforceable legal protection to safeguard Canada’s fisheries and the lakes, rivers and oceans that sustain them.
While there will be no charge for legal help provided by Ecojustice, FONS will be responsible to raise money for costs including expert witnesses and other expenses related to preparing for the upcoming environmental assessment of Northern Pulp’s proposed treatment facility. FONS will announce a fund-raising campaign for this purpose in the near future.