Wastewater upgrades and straight pipe removal boost outlook for LaHave River

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About 600 straight pipes along the LaHave River dump raw or partially treated sewage into the water. Lunenburg estimates that roughly 600,000 litres of untreated sewage flows into the estuary every single day. Photo Credit: Municipality of the District of Lunenburg

Nova Scotia’s LaHave River runs in between two small municipalities, Bridgewater and Lunenburg. New projects are now underway to improve and maintain the health of the river, often overwhelmed with sewage, for the future of these towns located just a stone’s throw from the North Atlantic Ocean.

The federal government recently agreed to provide funding of up to $750,000 through Canada’s Clean Water and Wastewater Fund for upgrades at Bridgewater’s wastewater treatment facility. The funds will be used to replace the floating anaerobic digester gas storage cover and replace the belt filter press at the plant. These improvements will improve the quality of wastewater effluent, helping to reduce odours, increase efficiency, and safeguard the health and well-being of local residents, the town council says. CBCL Limited has been contracted by the Town of Bridgewater to provide the engineering services for the upgrades. Once the operational requirements are determined, CBCL will undertake a preselection process for the equipment through a request for quotation tender.

According to a department report, Bridgewater’s wastewater treatment plant employs three technical operators and has 14 sewage pump stations. The current plant has a 2 million gallon (9,100 cubic metres) per day capacity.

The upgrades come as a welcome addition after a pipe failed in one of the wastewater pump systems on February 15, 2018. The failure led to the discharge of untreated wastewater into the LaHave River. According to local media reports, the main discharge pipe at Pump Station 4 failed and flooded the pump station.

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“It’s a challenging time for urban municipalities as we work to balance annual budget pressures against the rising costs of important infrastructure projects,” announced Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell in a statement to media. “Today’s Clean Water and Wastewater Funding announcement is exciting because it is an important example of what can be accomplished when all three levels of government work together for the betterment of our community and environment.”

On the eastern side of the LaHave River, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg is beginning its straight pipe replacement program. The province of Nova Scotia and the federal government are each contributing a third of the $17 million program that is working with homeowners on a cost-sharing scheme to replace the straight pipes.

About 600 straight pipes along the LaHave River dump raw or partially treated sewage into the water. Lunenburg estimates that roughly 600,000 litres of untreated sewage flows into the estuary every single day.

The council and residents hope that installing septic systems and removing the straight pipes, which are technically not allowed under the Nova Scotia Environment Act, will significantly improve the river’s water quality.

Funding to remove the 600 straight pipes materialized in an unusual way. A 13-year-old student at Bridgewater Elementary made headlines after she began testing for fecal bacteria at different locations around the LaHave River. Stella Bowles found high levels of contamination and posted the results on social media. In the process, she garnered an online following and caught the attention of her local municipal council. Now, three levels of government have jointly pledged $15.7 million to help clean up the LaHave River along Nova Scotia’s South Shore, thanks largely to the efforts of the environmentally-minded student.

“Today’s investment guarantees future generations a cleaner, more sustainable LaHave River,” announced Lunenburg Mayor Carolyn Bolivar-Getson. “Council made this project a priority, and we have been working on this project, in concert with local citizens such as Stella Bowles and groups such as Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, for years. We are very excited that the federal and provincial governments will help bring this project to fruition. This partnership will achieve our goal of making the lower LaHave River straight-pipe free by 2023.”

Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation prepared a stormwater management guide for the LaHave River that can be viewed here.

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