The Effluent Treatment System at

Boat Harbour

A Brief History

As an incentive to attract industry to Pictou County, the provincial government offered raw water supply and effluent treatment to potential incoming industries in 1967. Three companies were attracted to the County through these incentives (Michelin Tire, Northern Pulp's predecessor and Canso Chemicals).

Through this arrangement, Northern Pulp has used the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility from 1967 to present. The system was also utilized by Canso Chemicals from 1971/72 to 1992. From Abercrombie Point untreated effluent is piped along the bottom of the East River and across land to the Boat Harbour Facility. The treatment facility was originally owned and operated by the province. The facility is still owned by the province and is operated under lease agreement by Northern Pulp.

What is now operated as the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF) is very different than how it began. In fact there originally was no formal treatment process. It was believed that nature and time were enough to treat the effluent. Shortly following operation, it was recognized that additional treatment was necessary.

Beginning in 1972 the treatment process at Boat Harbour was modified and improved including the addition of settling ponds and an aerated basin.

Several major changes have occurred over the years improving effluent quality entering the Boat Harbour facility. In 1992 the Canso Chemicals chlor-alkali facility that generated sodium hydroxide, using mercury as a catalyst, closed. In 1997 the Mill moved away from elemental chlorine to chlorine dioxide for bleaching to meet new federal Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations (PPER) for dioxans and furans.

The Existing Boat Harbour Facility

In 1995 the Mill took over the operation of the treatment facility. It was initially a 10 year lease agreement, which was later extended to 2030.

Between 1992 and 1996 the federal government implemented regulations under the Fisheries Act that called for significant improvements to effluent specifically for the Pulp and Paper Industry. Multiple upgrades were made at the Boat Harbour ETF including: additional aeration, separation curtains in the aeration basin, and the addition of a nutrient feed system to optimize microbiological activity. The effect of these upgrades along with process improvements in the Mill itself, resulted in significantly improved effluent quality that met, and continues to meet all applicable regulations.

The Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility that exists today operates within all federal and provincial regulations.

Why does Boat Harbour ETF need to be replaced?

In June 2014 there was a leak of untreated effluent due to a breach in the pipeline which led to the enactment of the Boat Harbour Act. The Boat Harbour Act requires that the use of the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility cease by January 31, 2020. It is the wish of Pictou Landing First Nation that Boat Harbour be returned to tidal and made a place that the community can once again enjoy.

We support the government's actions to fulfill the promise made to Pictou Landing First Nation to close the existing ETF.

Boat Harbour Remediation


The project for the remediation of Boat Harbour has begun. The remediation project is entirely separate and distinct from the project for the replacement of the effluent treatment facility.

The province has contracted with a consultant and they are proceeding with assessment, alternatives review and studies. The remediation of Boat Harbour is not included in this environmental assessment. This study is for the replacement of the effluent treatment facility only.

For questions about the Remediation Project, please contact:

Ken Swain, Project Leader, Boat Harbour Project, Nova Scotia Lands

Tel: 902-403-9744

Email: Ken.Swain@novascotia.ca