The same day Northern Pulp’s owners announced a proposed overhaul, the province says it has to undergo a Class II environmental assessment.

Paper Excellence, the Abercrombie mill’s parent company, is proposing a transformation into a “best-in-class” operation and one of the “world’s cleanest, most environmentally-focused and community-based mills.”

“Paper Excellence acknowledges community concerns and wants to work with community members to build trust, finalize a transformation plan for a clean and sustainable mill, and develop a new relationship for the mill and community moving forward,” said Graham Kissack, vice-president, Environment, Health & Safety, and corporate communications, Paper Excellence, in a press release.

The mill has been in hibernation mode since January 2020. Since then, the company has used findings and stakeholder input on a previously proposed replacement facility to inform a transformation plan. Throughout the past year, a volunteer Environmental Liaison Committee was formed and engaged, producing a report outlining issues and concerns they propose need to be addressed should the mill reopen.

As part of the $350-million transformation plan being proposed, the results, according to Paper Excellence, will include no detectable odour in surrounding community during normal operations, a reduction of visible plumes above the mill by 70 per cent, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Paper Excellence says 45 per cent less water will be used, and wastewater components will be treated and reduced by 75 per cent. The proposal will see the treated wastewater released into Pictou Harbour, with the exact location determined through environmental study and community engagement.

Key elements to the proposed transformation plan will see oxygen delignification to reduce the use of bleaching chemicals, as well as an installation of a new tertiary effluent treatment system to ensure the “highest quality water release and colour removal.” The recovery boiler will be converted to a low odour configuration under the proposed plan.

More information, as well as a chance to provide feedback, on the plan, can be found at

 “We want to make it as easy as possible for community members to receive updates, review science-based information, ask questions, and engage in dialogue about the proposed transformation,” said Kissack. “In the short-term, we will be hosting virtual and telephone town hall meetings and we will shift to in-person sessions as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.”

The company has filed the project description for the effluent treatment system including tertiary treatment with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change. Filing the project description is the first step in the provincial environmental approval process.

In response to the filing of the project description, the province announced a Class II environmental assessment will be needed.

"The changes outlined in the company's project description would make the mill a substantially different facility than the one that had operated there previously,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Keith Irving, in a press release announcing the process.

A Class II environmental assessment typically takes 275 calendar days to complete, not including the time it takes to prepare an environmental assessment report. The proponent has up to two years, outside of the review time, to prepare the environmental assessment report.

In a Class II process, an environmental assessment panel is appointed to review the project and provide a report and recommendation to the minister.

The next step is for the company to register its new project for environmental assessment. Once that happens, the registration documents will be posted online, and the department will draft terms of reference for public review and comment.