PORT HAWKESBURY: Town officials here are hoping they have found, and addressed, the source of an unpleasant odour that plagued the Embree Island area earlier this fall and has arisen regularly over the past year.

At the request of deputy mayor Bert Lewis, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Maris Freimanis provided an update on the situation at least week’s regular meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council, with the CAO announcing new measures for the sewer pumping station at the intersection of Embree Island Road and Reeves Street.

“I’ve had calls from residents on the high side of the road near the sewage treatment plant, and it happens frequently enough, every two or three months,” Lewis told the October 4 meeting at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio.

“It gets so bad that they can’t open the windows in their home – they can’t go outside. For some reason, I think weekends are worse than other times – that’s when it usually happens.”

In response, Freimanis confirmed that town staff has investigated both the municipal wastewater plant on the outskirts of Port Hawkesbury, as well as the sewer pumping station, tracing the source of the odour to the latter facility. According to Freimanis, the bar screen leading into the station had collected “a lot of debris,” and the CAO noted that this development seemed to coincide with the resumption of classes at the nearby Strait Area Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).

“One thing that we have observed was that we have low flow, and that low-flow wastewater was sitting in the wet well, and the interval that the pumps kick in to pump it dry and send it on the treatment plant was much greater,” Freimanis explained.

“So what we have done is that we’ve instituted a procedure that during times of low flow, we will set the elevation lower for the pump to kick in, so the sewage doesn’t stay as long in the wet well. As well, additionally, we will monitor the bar screens a little more frequently, to make sure that there’s nothing happening in that area, as well.”

The CAO added that town officials are willing to consider injecting its wastewater with a scent-enhancing agent as a “last resort,” and pledged to follow-up with the plant’s designers, CBCL, on the odour issue. In the meantime, Freimanis is encouraging Embree Island residents to contact the town office if they experience any further difficulties of this nature.

“We do have some scent product that we disperse in and around the pumping station to reduce the odour, which has also been effective,” the CAO told the council meeting.

“But the citizens in that area would be helpful to us if they call our front desk and say, ‘Listen, we’ve got an issue there,’ and then we can look at the frequency once they call us.”

In the meantime, Freimanis confirmed that the arrival of cooler fall weather and more wastewater flow from “increased activity at the college” has restored some semblance of order at the sewage pumping station, which “seems to be performing correctly,” the CAO added.