University students tackle Parrsboro sewage issue

Andrew Wagstaff
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‘Alarming’ results to be presented to council Nov. 26

PARRSBORO – Every day sewage is dumped into the Parrsboro harbour, and twice daily it gets flushed out to sea by the world’s highest tides.
For many, that is no longer acceptable. In fact, national regulations say it must end by 2020.

Mount Allison University students Hanna Doyle and Courtney Gilbert grew up in Parrsboro and never understood why their town seemed to be behind other places when it came to how it handled its sewage. Along with classmates Heather Shilton, Morgan Trenholm and Ryan Ferdinand, they made it a project in their Environmental Activism class.

“I wanted to do this project because I noticed other places like Great Village already had a plant, and also that Maccan is currently building one,” said Gilbert. “I wondered why Parrsboro was so behind in this aspect.”

Sewage is the nation’s largest source of water pollution, and Parrsboro is one of 16 “facilities” in Nova Scotia labeled as high-risk, according to Doyle, who has found herself in the position of explaining her town’s pollution to tourists over the years.

“Courtney and I both worked at (Fundy Geological) Museum, and quite a few people visiting asked us what the smell was,” she said. “I wasn’t aware until doing this project the regulations behind it and the importance of Parrsboro getting it done, but our whole community is built off the ocean, and we’re not really respecting the environment like we should.”

The students have been working on the project since the beginning of the school year in September, conducting research, collecting samples and having them tested for chemicals and bacteria.

The results were “alarming,” according to Doyle.

“We did two separate tests to compare – one from the raw sewage, and one from the ocean water,” she explained. “Even with that, it was still very alarming.”

Researching all the effects of what raw sewage does to the ocean was also eye opening for Gilbert.

“But actually going down and seeing where the wastewater comes out and meets with the harbour water was absolutely nauseating,” she said. “I would say that was a definite turning point for us - where this became a personal undertaking, rather than just a school project.”

The students have put together a “Pollution Abatement Strategy,” which they plan to present to town council at its Nov. 26 meeting. The strategy will provide options on how the town can tackle this problem, according to Doyle, who said it is meant to be helpful, not overly critical.

“We love Parrsboro so we want to see them be proactive about protecting the environment, and hopefully these regulations will help do that,” she said. “We can push this kind of stuff as long as we want, but it’s really important for Parrsboro to act sooner rather than later.”

As a high-risk offender, Parrsboro must either have a sewage treatment system in place by Dec. 31, 2020, or it can apply for transitional authorization, which could extend its deadline all the way to 2040. But a number of requirements must be met before that authorization can be granted, such as having detailed monitoring and planning in place, according to Doyle. The deadline to apply for transitional authorization is June 30, 2014.

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: Mount Allison University

Geographic location: Parrsboro, Great Village, Maccan Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Sandy Graham
    November 15, 2013 - 14:03

    This is a very welcome initiative, and I applaud the students for taking this on. I plan to be at that Council meeting to hear their presentation, and - with an open mind - the response from Council on how they will get things started, and finished in this regard