(Plume of dark water in Restigouche River. Facebook photo.)
APTN National News
New Brunswick is expected to carry out an inspection of a pulp mill over the next few days after a Mi’kmag salmon fisherman discovered a plume of dark water in the Restigouche River.
Shawn Metallic recorded a video on Monday showing the dark substance flowing underwater, trailing along the riverbank near the Atholville Mill. His Facebook post had over 130,000 views by Tuesday.
“I was going for a bike ride across the bridge and saw the black film. Looked like it was coming from the mill, so I stopped and took the video,” said Metallic. “People had to see this. I figured my friends would share this. Make it public. So everybody could see it.”
Metallic lives across the river from the mill, in the Listuguj Mi’kmag First Nation in Quebec.
“I was kind of disturbed by the fact that it’s spawning season; the salmon are starting to run here,” said Metallic. “I fish in those waters, that’s our livelihood. That’s our right to fish. To me, it didn’t look right, I imagine it’s not good for the fish or the ecosystem at all.”
Metallic is waiting to hear news on the investigation by New Brunswick’s Department of Environment.
In an email response, officials confirm, “the department is focusing its efforts on ensuring that the mill is operating within the standards set out in its Approval to Operate issued by the department.”
Metallic’s video has sparked speculation on social media that the dark plume is a chemical spill, calling it “poisonous,” “toxic,” and widespread concerns over any potential impact on the ecosystem.
In a media release, the AV Group, NB Inc., the company that runs the mill, “absolutely refutes the allegations of a chemical spill from its Atholville Mill. Discharges from the Atholville Mill are approved by the Department of Environment and meet all environmental standards. Discharges are not toxic and are a part of the normal operation of the effluent treatment system of this mill.”
Chief operating officer of the Ashley Irvine calls the comments on social media “false and misleading.”
Irvine calls the effluent “organic in nature.” The mill produces dissolving pulp.
“The main process system we have here is the transformation of a woodchip into a pulp fibre,” explained Irvine.
Different from paper-grade pulp, it’s used in textiles and for products like wet wipes and feminine hygiene said Irvine.
Irvine said the effluent is tested regularly by the company, and by government officials and has to meet standards set by the province, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Environment Canada.
Irvine said the AV group wants to set the record straight and provide information to the public.
“The comment that it’s a chemical being dumped in the river, that signifies or implies it was done on purpose or this is what we do all the time. Dump chemicals in the river, which is far from the truth, we don’t do that,” said Irvine. “We are responsible corporate citizens, and we treat the environment seriously.”
Metallic has been fielding calls and Facebook messages all day.
“People are thanking me,” he said.
He added this isn’t the first time people have noticed the dark plume in the Restigouche River. Metallic isn’t sure he’ll hit the water to fish for salmon after this.
“You could be fishing in waters contaminated. I’m now kind of skeptical of eating our own salmon. I don’t know what that is,” said Metallic. “They’re doing an investigation. Hopefully it’s not something not too harmful to the environment, but even so, it doesn’t look good.”