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Pulp, paper producers plead for time to reduce pollutants: federal deadline 'unrealistic'.

Pulp, paper producers plead for time to reduce pollutants

The pulp and paper industry is asking for more time to meet the federal government's proposed pollution reduction regulations.

Under the planned changes, pulp mills would have to reduce dioxins and furans, a suspected cause of birth defects and cancer, in their waste water to levels that cannot be measured by a specific procedure by Jan. 1, 1994.

The proposals would also strengthen current controls on conventional pollutants in pulp and paper mill effluent.

The proposed regulations are expected to be approved in 1991.


Howard Hart, president of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, said his organization has advised Ottawa that an extension is necessary.

Some other companies, especially those with more than one mill, may need extra time, he said.

"It may take about a year or more in some instances."

While noting that much work is already underway, Hart explained that putting the control units into operation will take some time because of the specialized engineering and talent being used and the magnitude of the work. "It's a high-tech business in itself."

Employees will also need time to properly learn to operate the systems, he added. "It's just a practical thing."

Companies intend to comply with the proposed regulations, Hart stressed, noting that some mills are already changing.

While the association has offered its advice to the government, it has yet to hear what Ottawa intends to do in response, if anything.

Hart said that to meet the regulations as proposed, the industry across the country would face a $3.5-billion bill for capital investments.

However, he noted that the Ontario industry is ahead of other mills in the country, since it has worked with the provincial Ministry of the Environment to regulate chlorinated organic compounds.

Ontario's nine kraft mills are already committed to limiting their discharge of chlorinated organic compounds by Dec. 31, 1991.

Dioxins and furans are organochlorines, a large family of chemicals produced in the chlorine bleaching process used in pulp and paper mills to break down wood fibre and brighten paper.


I.D. (Joe) Bird, president of the Ontario Forest Industries Association in Toronto, also believes it will be difficult for companies to meet the federal deadline.

"The problem is that complying with the draft regulations will require installation of about 80 secondary treatment plants across Canada in three years," Bird said.

Equipment suppliers would have difficulty meeting the demand, even if all the orders were placed tomorrow, he said, adding that the engineering community would have similar problems.

In addition, Bird said there is the unknown delay time of getting environmental approval for the work from various levels of government.

"Three years compliance time is not the least bit realistic," he concluded.

Discussions are on-going with the federal government over the deadline, he noted. "I think they're willing to be realistic."

Bird also stressed that the industry is not crying poor, even though he estimates the regulations will cost the Ontario industry about $1 billion.

"That's a major investment," he stated.

The OFIA president has heard of some companies considering the future of certain mills, given the expense of the proposed pollution regulations.

"There are some tough decisions to be made out there," he said.


John Valley, vice-president of administration and corporate relations with Boise Cascade Canada Ltd. in Toronto, believes the regulations should be looked at again.

"We need to go back and ensure that the standards are based on scientifically sound information and reflect what is technically and economically achievable," Valley said.

Many of the standards are reasonable, he said, but there should be another look at those dealing with organochlorines and dioxins to ensure they are reasonable, scientific and based on valid risk assessments.

Valley said the capability to detect substances may be beyond the ability to determine the significance of elements in "trace, trace, trace" amounts.

As an illustration, he said detecting a substance in parts per trillion is equivalent to a second in 32,000 years.

"I stand back and am amazed at the ability to find these trace amounts of elements."

Valley said that, if a global view is taken of dioxin in the environment, the pulp and paper industry is a minor contributor, noting there are other sources such as municipal incinerators.

However, he said the industry is a very easy target.

Organochlorines were only identified as a problem in 1985, Valley added. "I think the industry has responded very quickly and very effectively."

There have been changes to treatment systems, process changes and modifications in that time, he said.

Valley also pointed out that the pulp and paper industry is in a very significant time of challenge.

"I don't think people realize how tough things are for the industry."

The cost of meeting the regulations would take "very significant" amounts of money at a time when there are other demands on the companies and significant competition in the marketplace, he said.

However, Valley noted Boise Cascade Canada mills have significant on-going capital programs for pollution control. "Our mills are reasonably well positioned to meet reasonable requirements."

For example, he pointed to a $20-million expenditure at the company's kraft mill complex in Fort Frances. Upon start-up in the fall of 1991, the project will substantially increase the mill's ability to substitute chlorine dioxide for chlorine in the bleaching of kraft pulp, significantly reducing the amount of chlorinated organics in the mill's effluent, including dioxins.

In 1989, announced or completed environmental projects at the company's Fort Frances and Kenora mills totalled more than $35 million.


Anne Johnston Hall, manager of corporate information with Abitibi-Price Inc. in Toronto, said the company does not have any problems with the proposed regulations.

She noted that Abitibi-Price only owns paper mills, four in Northern Ontario, which do not have the same dioxin problems as pulp mills.


Terry Collins, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment in Ottawa, said discussions are on-going with the industry to see what can be done technically to promote the process.

Collins admitted that meeting the deadline may be an ambitious project for some mills. "But we're optimistic they can do the job in the time-frame envisioned."
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Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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