New Brunswick

Ottawa hands over $26.6M for Saint John harbour cleanup

Saint John has received the last chunk of the $80 million it needs to clean up its harbour — and end its status as the only Canadian city to have untreated sewage running openly through its core.

Saint John has finally received the last chunk of the $80 million it needs to clean up its harbour — and end its status as the only Canadian city to haveuntreated sewage running in open creeks through its core.

Greg Thompson, New Brunswick Southwest MP and New Brunswick regional minister, hand-delivered the federal government's $26.6-million commitment to Saint John Friday morning.

"It's already in the bank, if you will," Thompson said.

Thompson said the federal money was available for the city to begin the cleanup as soon as possible, withmunicipal officials saying they are set to begin immediately.

The provincial government committed $26.6 million toward the $80-million cleanup projectin the fall of 2006, only days after Premier Shawn Graham and his cabinet were sworn in. The City of Saint John had also agreed to contribute a third of the costs.

The city releases 16 million litres of raw sewage into the harbour daily— the equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Sewage outfalls still release 46 per cent of Saint John's waste untreated into local creeks, rivers and the harbour itself. As part of the cleanup project, those outfalls will be shut down over the next few years and the effluent diverted to treatment plants.

Mayor Norm McFarlane said this was, in his opinion, the most important announcement in the city's history.

"When I first moved to Saint John in 1953 I can remember being along the harbour and you used to get salmon, you used to get shad — you'd never get that out of there today," McFarlane said.

"It won't be in my lifetime, but in my three granddaughters' lifetime? Possibly there'll be fishing back in the harbour."

Project will take 5 years to complete

City engineer Paul Groody said the first $8 million portion of the federal money, delivered in March 2006, went towards designing a wastewater system.

He said the new money will let shovels hit the dirt as soon as an environmental impact study is completed on a new waste management facility.

"That process will take we believe another several months: we can't predict exactly how many," Groody said.

"Once that's completed we will be calling for tenders for the new east wastewater treatment facility."

Groody said the whole project would take five years to complete.

Thompson also announced $34 million for the province to go toward projects to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollutants.