Here is the summary of the comments from federal scientists and experts on the Focus Report, which NP claims was “excellent” with “sound science.”

Here are some of the criticisms that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) made in its four pages of comments (I’ve put a few of the more critical phrases and words in bold):

  • The description of the Project and technical details and mitigations presented in the focus report are not sufficient in completely characterizing the project effects related to DFO’s mandate.
  • There are information gaps related to the disposal at sea location (which may result in impacts to fish and fish habitat), final pipeline construction methodology and mitigation to avoid or minimize potential HADD [harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat], Death of Fish, including marine mammals and sea turtles.
  • The preliminary review identified a number of gapsin the information presented. For example, information on marine species in particular is lacking and, at times, factually inaccurate. Moreover, the oceanographic modelling was considered inadequate.
  • The review of literature describing the aquatic community in the area is deficient: a substantial number of reports and publications are available that provide more contemporary information on aquatic communities. The report largely relies on a desktop review of sparsely published and in some cased [sic] outdated materials or incorrectly uses fisheries as a proxy for species distribution.
  • The limited spatial and temporal marine habitat assessment and baseline distribution of many of the marine fish species presented are inaccurate … The report also incorrectly indicates that some species utilize the area for only migration (e.g. Atlantic herring, American eel, striped bass).
  • There is an absence of information on marine mammals, leatherback sea turtles and sharks.
  • Herring harvest areas directly overlap the pipeline in outer Caribou Harbour and Northumberland Strait as stated but more importantly the project area includes herring spawning and larval distribution.
  • The project is within the marine refuge (Scallop Buffer Zone 24) … This important area is closed to scallop dragging to protect juvenile lobster, scallop, flounder and their habitat. It is not clear that the Scallop Buffer Area-Marine Refuge has been adequately considered in the environmental management and planning sections of the document.
  • Some common species names are incorrect (American plaice and not Atlantic plaice.)

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) made eight extensive and detailed critiques of the focus report, most too technical to quote here. But here are a couple of things it had to say (again the emphasis is mine):

  • Intensity factors for the calculation of allowable daily discharges for BOD [biochemical oxygen demand] and TSS [total suspended solids] are rounded up from what is identified in ECCC’s May 2019 Detailed Proposal for the Modernization of the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations … Rounding-up the intensity factors represents an increase in allowable discharges.
  • It is unclear how many marine water quality samples were in fact collected or how the laboratory results were used to calculate the Background Water Quality … In addition, no justification for the number of samples or sampling locations was provided.

Health Canada sent 14 pages of comments. Here are a few:

  • Health Canada is unable to assess whether the project as outlined in the Registration Submission and Focus Report may pose unacceptable or un-mitigable risks / adverse effects to human health as adequate information … has not been provided at this time.
  • After consultation with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) it was determined that the choice of a 2D oceanographic model is not appropriate for far-field modelling in Northumberland Strait … therefore errors in modelling may impact that potential risk / adverse effect of the project to human health …
  • Air dispersion modelling was completed at the facility’s average production output of 280,000 to 300,000 air dried metric tonnes (ADMT), however the facility has an industrial approval to operate to 330,000 ADMT … The air dispersion modelling should be completed at maximum operational output to provide worst case scenario for the project
  • Further … the increased output would increase the quantity of biosludge used in the boiler, which could also contribute to higher concentrations of COPCs [Contaminants of Potential Concern].
  • Due to the screening methodology used by the consultant, COPCs in effluent may have been inappropriately screened out … and may underestimate the risk associated with the project.
  • The report did not address the risk associated with exposure to chemical mixtures which could underestimate the risk to human health associated with the project.

Public Services and Procurement Canada submitted four pages of comments. It called for an analysis of the bedrock where the marine portion of the pipe was to be buried, and raised concerns about ice scouring. In addition, it noted that:

  • The report was, overall, found to be cumbersome to navigate and incomplete in certain areas.
  • No mention is made of leak detection for the underwater buried portions of the pipe. Independent of effluent impacts associated with effluent discharged from the end of pipe in deeper waters, what would the potential impacts of water quality and biota be resulting from undetected leaks, particularly in shallower near shore areas? There appears to be an underlying assumption that leaks in the buried marine portions of the pipeline are not an issue.
  • Section 10.1: Marine Archaeological Resource Impact Assessment (AIRA). This section indicates the complete ARIA is provided in Appendix 10.1. Appendix 10.1 includes a 1-page letter report, this is not an acceptable ARIA.
  • Appendix 7.4 – Environmental Effects Monitoring Program (EEM): This Appendix consists of an excerpt from the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations and does not provide project specific details.

Transport Canada sent Nova Scotia Environment an email, in which it noted:

  • While there are some further details included in the Focus Report regarding the location of the pipeline, Transport Canada has yet to receive more specific details that are required in the form of an application for approval under the CNWA [Canadian Navigable Waters Act] and for a Lease or License to access Transport Canada lands at the Caribou Ferry Terminal.
  • It is important to note that there is potential for direct impacts to navigation

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website:; Twitter @joan_baxter

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