Toxic effluents now officially toxic - maybe!

August 28, 1991, Lubicon mail-out on Pollution

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a newspaper article regarding a study by the Canadian Federal Department of the Environment which concludes that the environmentalists have been right all along. The effluent from bleached kraft pulp mills is indeed toxic.

Daishowa's Peace River bleached kraft pulp mill, the one which threatens the very existence of the traditional Lubicon society with massive clear-cutting of unceded Lubicon lands starting as early as this fall, is the largest hardwood bleached kraft pulp mill in Canada. It produces 1,000 metric tons of dehydrated bleached kraft pulp per day and is "licensed" by the Alberta Provincial Government to dump an average of over 20 tons of suspended solids daily into the scenic Peace River. This capacity to both produce and pollute is scheduled to double by 1993.

An official for the Federal Environment Department told reporters that the government study recommends neither standards nor specific measures, leaving it solely to the discretion Federal Environment Minister "to decide on an appropriate response". It's of course not very likely that the government scientists who prepared the report decided on their own to leave the question of appropriate standards and recommended remedial measures purely to the imagination of the Federal Environment Minister.

Once again making the Mulroney Government's industry-driven definition of the public interest crystal clear -- these are after all the same people who knowingly approved the sale of tainted fish to unsuspecting consumers in the name of not "damaging" the Maritime fishing industry -- the Federal Environment official told reporters that the cost of not poisoning people "will have to be taken into account". It's unlikely, the Federal Environment official said in an obvious attempt to placate possibly concerned pulp mill owners, that the Canadian Government will ever take any measures which would force the closure of such mills.

Arguing that the pulp and paper industry is able to adequately regulate itself, especially in light of so-called "market pressures" (operationally defined in this case as a consumer boycott of bleached paper products), an official of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association suggested that the Canadian Government should simply rely on "voluntary efforts by industry rather than using regulations". In this regard, the industry official noted, the "average amount" of poison being dumped into Canadian waters by pulp mills is "less than half the level of about five years ago". (Somehow being told that you're only being poisoned half as fast isn't very reassuring.)

Japan's predominant role in deforesting the world is deservedly well known. Daishowa is Japan's second largest forestry company. The Peace River pulp mill is Daishowa's largest overseas "investment".

The embattled Lubicons are smack dab in the middle of the road to achieving an totally uninhabitable planet. It's up to people concerned about the inextricable plight of the Lubicons and the planet to determine whether this fall the Lubicons represent just another tragic casualty of continuing, basically colonialistic exploitation of the world's resources, or perhaps some kind of more hopeful turning point.

Re-printed from THE EDMONTON JOURNAL, Thursday, July 18, 1991


Organochlorides a potential threat to humans, scientists say

Dennis Bueckert

The Canadian Press


Effluent from pulp mills that use bleaching is toxic even if dioxins are removed, a two-year assessment by scientists at the Environment Department has concluded.

The study says that compounds known as organochlorines, discharged as byproducts of bleaching, represent a potential threat to human health.

It is the first official federal confirmation of what environmentalists have been saying for about 10 years.

The study has been submitted to Environment Minister Jean Charest but not publicly released. It was summarized by a federal official involved in its preparation.

The assessment, carried out under the terms of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, recommends controls on organochlorines, but does not suggest precise standards.

"They (the scientists) recommend controls of one form or another, but they don't say in what form those controls will be," said the official, who declined to be named.

He said it's up to the minister to decide on an appropriate response, and costs to industry will have to be taken into account. Ottawa is unlikely to take measures that would force mills to close, he added.

Industry officials have warned that tight controls on organochlorines could impose huge costs beyond the $4 billion to $5 billion they are already spending to virtually eliminate dioxins and furans.

A spokesman for the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association declined to comment on the report, saying she had not seen it.

Under the environmental assessment act, a toxicity assessment is the first step toward new regulations. But Ottawa may choose to rely on voluntary efforts by industry rather than using regulations.

The official noted that industry has already made progress in reducing chlorine use, partly due to market pressures. More consumers are demanding unbleached paper products.

The average amount of organochlorines released from bleaching mills across Canada is about three kilograms per tonne of pulp, less than half the level of about five years ago, he said.

Pulp mills use bleaching to produce white paper products.