Parrsboro commits to sewage treatment by 2020

Andrew Wagstaff
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Presentation from university students draws huge crowd

PARRSBORO – Parrsboro will have adequate sewage treatment in place by the 2020 national deadline, CAO Ray Hickey told a huge crowd at the monthly session of town council here on Nov. 26.
The commitment came after the presentation of a “Pollution Abatement Strategy” from five Mount Allison University students, which revealed the raw sewage being dumped by the town into its harbour was 25 times the legal limit of CBOD (Carbonaceous Biochemical Oxygen Demand.) Another test of nearby ocean water tested 40 times higher than the legal limit.

“Dumping raw sewage into our ocean has caused cumulative environmental effects,” said student Hanna Doyle, who made the presentation along with classmates Courtney Gilbert, Ryan Ferdinand, Morgan Trenholm and Heather Shilton.

The students, who have been working on the project as part of their Environmental Activism studies, provided a detailed look at the risks to marine species, health and economic impacts. They also showed photos and video from the town’s sewer outflow, showing shorebird tracks crossing through baby wipes, Band-Aids and toilet paper.

The students also tested the water for fecal coliforms, and said the numbers were too high to count, but range from tens of thousands to tens of millions of fecal colonies.

“The Parrsboro harbour is directly affected by pollution,” said Gilbert. “Every improvement to water quality will improve fishing and the economy. Sixty per cent of our tourists are drawn to the beaches, and if this pollution is what they are seeing, it is very detrimental to Parrsboro.”

Hickey assured that a proposal is now being prepared to move forward with a treatment system, with the first steps being to study the available options, and then to connect the town’s three current sewer outflows.

Funding for the venture will come from sewer ratepayers, who could see a slight increase to the current fee of $150 per year, with hopes that the other two levels of government will also contribute, he said. Meanwhile, council approved to put its gas tax revenue, which amounts to about $100,000 per year, toward the project. He said the town has been putting this gas tax money into a reserve account for the past few years, and now has about $400,000 on hand.

“We all live here, and we all want this,” said deputy mayor Lisa Ward, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Lois Smith. “We know it’s not going to be free, so we’ll all be working towards getting it accomplished.”

The crowd was so large for the meeting that extra seating had to be brought into council chambers, yet some were still left standing in the lobby. Most listened quietly to the students’ presentation, with the occasional murmur of disgust at some of the images. Councillors were also quiet, letting Hickey answer the many questions from the students and the audience members.

The students were respectful but not afraid to challenge the town on the lack of detailed planning, and the lack of testing that they said should have begun in January. Doyle even became combative when Hickey said the town had not been notified that it was expected to perform testing.

“Is ignorance really a reason not to save the environment and the community and its citizens?” she said. “Is the cost not worth the benefit?”

“Testing isn’t saving anything,” said Hickey. “Treatment will. Were going ahead with a sewage treatment plant.”

While the students applauded council for its decision to put gas tax revenue towards the sewage treatment project, Doyle criticized the town’s plan to also use the gas tax money to pay for land clearing work at the former Scott property in preparation for its planned 125th anniversary celebrations next year, claiming that type of work does not fall under qualifications for use of the gas tax reserve. Hickey argued that it does qualify.

Former town councilor Ralph Foster congratulated the students for bringing the issue to the public eye, and for “waking up” council. He recommended a committee be formed to work on the matter on a daily basis. Hickey reported that there would be a steering committee made up of town staff, provincial government representatives, and potentially community members.

While a full written report by the students was handed out at the meeting, the multimedia presentation they gave can be seen here.

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Geographic location: Parrsboro

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Recent comments

  • Thinker
    November 29, 2013 - 17:09

    Were they not already committed to have a treatment plant in place by 2020 anyways? Not to take away from the students, they have done an excellent job at bringing more awareness to this. Will the town hook up all the houses to their system that dump into the harbour also?

  • Margaret Phinney
    November 29, 2013 - 09:35

    I applaud the students for bringing the issue forward and am excited to hear there is to be a committee struck and would like the opportunity to sit on this steering committee . After being away from Parrsboro for over 40 years , I was appalled at the amount of sewage that is dumped into the Minas Basin, and would like very much to see this stopped. I am not apposed to a tax increase if it helps save the environment even though I am on a septic system at this time.

  • Realistic
    November 29, 2013 - 06:42

    Hope they consider expanding the sewer system as well.

  • Karen
    November 27, 2013 - 18:04

    Bravo! To these students for doing such hard work and bringing an issue that should have been dealt with many years ago to the forefront. Very informative, well presented and articulated by these 5 young conscientious students! You all get an A+ from me!