A new report on the state of the Gulf of Maine has raised concerns about the amount of raw sewage being dumped into the Saint John harbour.

The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment released its report last week that examined six critical issues, including contaminants and aquatic habitats.

The report states that 700 square kilometres of the Canadian portion of the gulf are closed to shellfish harvesting due to contamination.

And it notes that Saint John dumps about 42 per cent of the city's sewage into the harbour untreated.

The report's criticism has the Conservation Council of New Brunswick demanding that government officials take the matter seriously.

Sharon Flatt, the chairperson of the Saint John Fundy chapter of the Conservation Council, said she's not surprised by the report's criticism aimed at Saint John.

"We have all the fish coming up right now into the Bay of Fundy to feed and to have their babies," Flatt said.

"They're eating our sewage and then bringing that back down to the dinner plates of the entire eastern seaboard. That is a huge problem."

Flatt said she hopes the city and provincial and federal governments will take the issue seriously.

Saint John Mayor Ivan Court said the three levels of government have already displayed their commitment to cleaning up Saint John harbour.

About $61 million of the nearly $100-million project has already been spent on sewage treatment facilities, according to the city's mayor.

"And by another year's time we'll have that completely resolved," Court said.

The harbour clean-up project has run into some problems as the budget has jumped by roughly $20 million.

Other problem areas

Saint John was not the only municipality highlighted by the council's report for dumping raw sewage into the gulf.

The coastal communities of St. Stephen, St. George, Blacks Harbour and Alma also have sewage systems that are in need of upgrading.

According to the report, 378 facilities around the Gulf of Maine released roughly 1.1 trillion litres (or 305 billion gallons) of waste water treatment effluent into the gulf.

Of that, the report said 492 million litres (or 130 billion gallons) entered Boston harbour from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.