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Construction begins for Cape Breton’s Sydney Harbour wastewater upgrade

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Five years after securing federal funding, construction of Nova Scotia’s Westmount wastewater collection system in Cape Breton is finally underway.

Three outfalls currently discharging into the Sydney Harbour will consolidate into a new outfall from a treatment plant located at Sydport, as the $58-million project aims to serve some 7,000 residents in Westmount, Coxheath, Sydney River and an industrial park.

Sewage is currently treated on the Sydney side of the harbour, and after the project’s completion, sewage will be treated on the west side as well.

“There was a lot of excitement, and now we see the reality around that,” Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke said at the groundbreaking ceremony last week. “This is about our community’s vitality and our economy,” he added, noting that the wastewater project is estimated to create approximately 270,000 hours of employment.

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The groundbreaking took place near an effluent outfall located close to the Dobson Yacht Club. Construction is estimated to be ongoing until at least 2023.

Officially called the Sydney Harbour West Wastewater Collection and Treatment Project, work has been delayed in part by costs and consideration of alternative funding formulas. The project was postponed “until we have certainty from the province that we can afford the operations costs and repay the capital borrowing on an ongoing basis,” city council noted in 2016. Ultimately, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Government of Nova Scotia and Government of Canada ended up equally sharing the project’s cost.

In August, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) issued a request for proposals for the supply of equipment at the new wastewater treatment facility, including: screening equipment, biofilter system, sludge dewatering equipment, grit removal equipment, sequencing batch reactor equipment (SBR), and an ultraviolet disinfection system.

CBRM estimates it will cost over $400 million to ensure the region’s widely scattered and aging wastewater systems meet federal regulations. But high-risk projects in the CBRM that were supposed to be completed by 2020, including the Glace Bay and Port Morien systems, will likely miss the January 1, 2021 deadline to meet new wastewater effluent quality standards.

Medium-risk projects such as the Westmount undertaking are to be completed by 2030.

To maintain and operate the treatment plants, CBRM is predicting a 7% increase to the municipality’s annual operating budget.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is responsible for a system that includes more than 700 kilometres of pipe, 56 lift or pump stations, 41 outfall locations, and two treatment plants.

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