Nfld. & Labrador

Raw sewage will flow without serious government aid, Bay Roberts mayor says

Municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador says they cannot meet the 2020 federal wastewater regulations deadline unless governments spend far more money.

Towns in Conception Bay rank among high effluent emitters

Bay Roberts Mayor Phillip Wood says a solution must be found to rid towns of the need to dump sewage and wastewater in waterways. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The mayor of Bay Roberts said his town cannot meet federal wastewater and sewage effluent regulations without an infusion of cash from Ottawa and the Newfoundland and Labrador government. 

"Newfoundland has such a pristine environment. It's a sin, really, what we are doing," said Phillip Wood, who added that his town is willing to shoulder its share of the cost of installing a wastewater treatment plant. 

Wood said the pollution of waterways is a serious issue that must be dealt with immediately, but he added that the funds the federal government has budgeted to tackle the problem are "only a drop in the bucket."

Wood said Bay Roberts has been working to close the town's outfalls, two of which remain open. 

Gulls and ducks can be seen scavenging about half a kilometre from the town, where a pipe carries the effluent.

Seabirds feed on sewage from one of two outfalls in Bay Roberts. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Dumping doubled in N.L.

Effluent discharged into rivers and oceans has doubled in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2012, when Ottawa introduced tougher standards for wastewater disposal under the Fisheries Act. 

Documents obtained by CBC News from Environment Canada show that towns in Conception Bay discharged 1.2 billion litres of waste, the highest amount of any region in the province.

The entire province spewed 10.6 billion litres of untreated wastewater and raw sewage into the environment in 2015, more than double the five billion litres emitted in 2013. 

'It's a sin, really, what we're doing."- Phillip Wood, Mayor of Bay Roberts

"If we're promoting Newfoundland as the place to come, we have to do our part to do it up," said Wood.

If towns are going to meet the 2020 deadline for compliance with the federal regulations, Wood said, "there has to be some government strategy developed — and developed soon." 

Towns warned to comply with regulations

Since 2015, Ottawa has issued written warnings to a long list of towns across Newfoundland and Labrador.   

Those towns are Arnold's Cove, Baie Verte, Bishop's Falls, Fortune, Gambo, Glovertown, Holyrood, Marystown, New-Wes-Valley, Old Perlican, Placentia, Point Leamington, Port-aux-Basques, Port-au-Choix, Rodickton-Bide Arm, St. Anthony, St. Lawrence, Salmon Cove, Upper Island Cove, and Whitbourne. 

Port de Grave is one of more than 300 unincorporated towns in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Wood said unincorporated towns and service districts are also part of the problem.

"You have approximately 270 incorporated towns and approximately 320 local service districts," he said.

"You can't leave out this group. If you're making … incorporated areas follow these regulations, what about all the areas that aren't incorporated?"

$500-million price tag

Karen Oldford, who chairs the Atlantic caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said the $2 billion earmarked by the federal government to stem the tide of pollution from effluent is not enough.

Karen Oldford said $2 billion is a start but it falls short of the $18 billion needed to comply with federal standards by 2020. (CBC)

Oldford, who is also the mayor of Labrador City, said installing treatment plants and upgrading infrastructure across Canada has been estimated to cost $18 billion. 

"For our small province of 500,000 people, it's estimated it would cost $500 million — that's just for the wastewater," said Oldford.

"In one small community, they have 300 outfalls into the ocean. That's one community," she said. 

"Everybody wants to get there, but it's going to take a lot of years of funding."

About the Author

Chris O'Neill-Yates

National Reporter

Chris is CBC NL's national reporter for CBC TV, Radio and Her investigative/enterprise journalism has garnered multiple awards including from the CAJ, RTDNA, AJA, and CBA. Chris is multilingual, and holds degrees from Memorial University (BA Hons), University of King's College (B.J.) and King's College London (M.A. South Asia and Global Security). Story idea? Email:

With files from Elizabeth Thompson