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Hurricane damage: Raw sewage dumped into Lunenburg harbour after sea water gets ‘in places it had never been before’

The Lunenburg Wastewater Treatment Plant has been shutdown due to flooding resulting from Hurricane Dorian.
The Lunenburg Wastewater Treatment Plant has been shutdown due to flooding resulting from Hurricane Dorian. - Josh Healey

Lunenburg wastewater plant offline after damage by hurricane Dorian

LUNENBURG, N.S. —

Days after hurricane Dorian pummeled the province, residents of the South Shore are still dealing with the lingering impact.

On Sept. 9, it was announced that the Lunenburg Wastewater Treatment Plant would remain closed until further notice due to damage resulting from the hurricane.

Mayor Rachel Bailey said town staff monitored the facility throughout the day on Sept. 7, but the combination of strong winds and a storm surge caused the plant to flood with seawater in the late afternoon.

And until the plant is operational, she said, the town’s unfiltered sewage is being dumped directly into the harbour.

“It’s certainly not ideal circumstances but it’s the reality of where we are,” said Bailey in an interview with the South Shore Breaker.

“We want to thank the public for understanding that this is not something that could have been avoided.”

Bailey added that the town spent the week before the storm preparing but was taken off guard by the plant’s flooding.

“There was sea water from our back harbour that was in places it had never been before. One of those places, unfortunately, was our wastewater treatment plant,” she said.

The town posted on social media Sept. 9 to explain the shutdown and indicated it had contacted experts to guide town staff in assessing the extent of the damage to the electrical equipment.

Furthermore, the town has contacted both federal and provincial agencies to inform them of the plant’s shutdown.

Bailey confirmed that the first environmental cleaning had already taken place and, although the plant isn’t operational, power has been restored.

However, there is no timeline to have the facility up and running.

“It’s definitely too early to know what we’re dealing with from an operating perspective,” said Bailey, adding that the town would provide more information when it became available.

Some 3,800 residents in Lunenburg County were still without power Sept. 10, according to the Nova Scotia Power website.

The town has been exploring an upgrade to its current wastewater treatment plant for several months after it received two reports highlighting a slip in performance from the facility.

The current plant was built in 2003, and, as noted in a report by CBCL Engineering, certain sections are corroded.

After a white, murky substance was dumped into the wastewater system in mid-July, the town began running a social media campaign to help inform residents about which substances can’t be put into the system.

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