INVERNESS: Residents here held a rally to express their concerns over the state of the community’s treatment plant.
The rally, which was organized by the Inverness Development Association (IDA), was called “Crisis in Inverness,” and was held Monday evening at the Inverness Miner’s Museum, near the plant.
“Going through the community the smell, people can’t sit out, going into their homes they can’t keep their windows open and people are getting sick because of it, it’s just very bad,” IDA president Rose Mary MacDonald told The Reporter hours before the protest. “This puts our people and our children at risk. Breathing sewage toxins can lead to health issues. It is embarrassing to have to explain to visitors and tourists what the horrible stench is that is permeating our town. They too are complaining of being made sick. It is shameful that our voices on this issue are falling on deaf ears.”
MacDonald noted that problems now extend beyond odour, to the closure of part of the Inverness Beach due to a substance called enterococci.
“The Inverness treatment plant has been releasing toxins throughout the community on a daily basis for months,” she said in a press release. “Three-quarters of our beautiful Inverness Beach – where the treatment plant runs out into the ocean – has now been tested… and is now closed. The main section of the beach is still open.
“We believe that it’s from the treatment plant. The pipe runs out there, we have pictures of it, it is really, really bad looking as far as the growth and that’s around it, it’s black. It runs out for miles and miles so we’re just talking close to shore we see this and people cannot go near that.”
Because the plant was built 46 years ago and Inverness has grown residentially and commercially since 2012 and continues to grow, MacDonald said any new developments will be unable to obtain building permits. This is unacceptable in light of plans by the federal government to make Inverness into a tourism destination hub, she said.
“The community has outgrown the sewage treatment facility and our infrastructure has not been maintained over the last five years with this growth,” MacDonald noted. “There’s a lot of residential and commercial growth in the community, there’s a lot of residential and commercial tax revenues coming out of this community.”
After invitations were sent to provincial and federal cabinet ministers, as well as Premier Stephen McNeil, the only politicians to respond were Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner and Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster.
MacDonald said it is hoped the rally can send a message to federal and provincial representatives that this is an “urgent” situation.
“It is a crisis situation!” MacDonald declared. “All levels of government need to sit down immediately, to provide a solution. The only solution is to provide a new and larger plant.”
During the regular monthly meeting of Inverness Municipal Council on August 1, the municipality’s environmental and facilities compliance manager, Trudy Gillis, said they have received odour complaints in Inverness.
Gillis told council the odour issue is a result of the community “outgrowing its current infrastructure,” namely the waste water treatment plant. The plant was constructed in 1973, and most plants of that nature have a lifespan of 20 years, she said, noting the plant is now exceeding the design flow of organic loading capacity daily and needs to be replaced with a larger plant with a higher capacity.
Gillis said municipal staff met Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) representatives on July 31 to review the situation and the provincial officials agreed that the new plant is the only way to move forward.
At the time of the meeting, Gillis said municipal staff repaired sludge pumps and installed timers on the pumps so they can work automatically.
The municipality currently has a request before the federal government under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) for funding to replace the Inverness facility and the waste water treatment plant in Whycocomagh. The replacement of those facilities has been earmarked as a high priority to the municipality.
MacDonald said that after the Inverness and Whycocomagh projects were submitted jointly last January, it appears one project is proceeding faster than the other. MacDonald said Cuzner is speaking with the head of the ICIP to determine the status of the project in Inverness.
“I got word today that Whycocomagh has been approved but Rodger Cuzner is checking into it for us, he’s not certain with what’s happening with the Inverness piece of it,” MacDonald said. “We’re very frustrated with that. Inverness is growing, it’s not an unknown factor to any of the municipal, provincial or federal governments. They know it’s growing and this system has been acting up over the years. The municipality got fines from the Department of the Environment for not taking action on the system over the years.”
Council agreed to send a letter to the funding partners to help push the projects forward.
Also at the same meeting, a petition with more than 700 signatures calling for a new treatment plant in Inverness was tabled.