Boat captain says he's accused of smearing Lunenburg mayor with sewage

Tour boat operator Bill Flower was charged with assault this week following a heated argument with the town's mayor in August.

Tour boat operator Bill Flower charged with assault following argument with town's mayor in August

Bill Flower has been very vocal with his concerns that sewage is making Lunenburg harbour unsafe for those who live, work and play in it. (Steve Berry/CBC)

A tour boat operator who has opposed the Town of Lunenburg, N.S., over its sewage treatment practices has been charged with assaulting the mayor.

The charges are the culmination of a combative few months for Bill Flower, who's been vocal in his concerns that effluent is making the harbour unsafe for those who live, work and play in it.

On Friday, Flower confirmed he was arrested this week by local RCMP and that he is to appear in Bridgewater provincial court on April 11. He must not have any contact with the mayor.

"I was fingerprinted, [got] mug shots and was very embarrassed," Flower told CBC's Maritime Noon. "I don't understand it."

Confrontation on wharf

On an early August morning, Flower said he was met by Mayor Rachel Bailey at the wharf where he keeps his boat.

"She was down there, walking back and forth, pacing on the wharf in a rage because I had gone to the press when in fact I hadn't gone to the press, the press came to me," he said. "She put her finger in my face."

Mayor Rachel Bailey could not be reached for comment Friday. (CBC)

Their argument was long and loud, he said. He won't detail what happened next, but said he is accused of tossing sewage on her leg.

He said Bailey returned the next morning with an RCMP officer, her husband and two others. He said she accused him of smearing her with excrement, pulled her pant leg up and said her leg was infected.

'Unacceptable' behaviour

On Friday, Bailey could not be reached for comment. Five days later, the mayor issued a statement that said Flower's account of what happened doesn't match her statement to police. Bailey said the incident in question happened on Aug. 14 at Fishermen's Wharf in Lunenburg. 

"During the course of what began there as a discussion, another person participating in the exchange put his hands on me in a manner that is unacceptable," her statement said. 

Bailey said she won't comment further until the matter is dealt with by the courts. 

A heated exchange between her and Flower was reported on early last month. It isn't clear if the alleged assault is a separate incident.

RCMP keeping mum

Flower said the whole confrontation was captured on wharf surveillance video, which is now in the RCMP's hands. 

"I'd like to make the video public knowledge," he said. "I'd love everybody to see it because I'm not worried about the results."

On Oct. 3, Flower said he'd just returned home from escorting two Los Angeles film producers who were scouting locations when he got the call from RCMP. He chose to go to their office instead of being arrested at home.

On Friday, RCMP Cpl. Dal Hutchinson said the force would not comment on the case for the time being.

Bill Flower runs boat tours from the wharf, and said he regularly has to clean sludge off his vessel. (Submitted by Bill Flower)

Flower began to speak out about the harbour's conditions in August. Within weeks, he was voted off the town's Harbour Authority, which he helped establish.

The town maintains it performs regular checks of the harbour and that its plant is up to federal and provincial standards. The town's own harbour samples, as well as others, have shown alarming amounts of fecal matter in parts of the harbour at times.

Flower said the harbour hasn't changed since, calling the water "feces-laden, improperly treated, stinking."

Water tests in the harbour measured the amount of enterococci (fecal bacteria) per 100 millilitres of water. One result showed 2,613 parts per 100 millilitres. Anything above 175 parts per 100 millilitres should not touch human skin.

'It's childish'

Flower said he doesn't blame Bailey for the sewage problem, being that she became mayor after the troubled treatment plant was built.

"There's never been a personal attack on the mayor. It was basically, I'm concerned about the health and well-being of our environment. And I want the situation fixed," he said.

"I have no ill feelings towards the mayor. It's childish. I don't know what she's doing." 

Flower said he plans to fight the charges. None of the accusations have been tested in court.

With files from Maritime Noon