Nova Scotia

New Minas residents say strong sewage smell trapping them indoors

Dawn Noakes covered her nose and held her breath as she left her New Minas, N.S., home Wednesday morning, her only defence against what she describes as the "horrendous" smell overtaking the town. 

‘It smells like you're in an old outhouse in the middle of August,’ says Dawn Noakes

A roughly $5-million project to upgrade the regional sewage treatment plant is behind schedule. (Robert Short/CBC)

Dawn Noakes covered her nose and held her breath as she left her New Minas, N.S., home Wednesday morning, her only defence against what she describes as the "horrendous" smell overtaking the town. 

"It smells like you're in an old outhouse in the middle of August," she told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon

The stench wafting from a nearby sewage treatment plant has plagued the community for years and many residents say the last few weeks have been particularly stinky.

Last year, the Municipality of the County of Kings announced relief would be on the way thanks to a roughly $5-million upgrade to the facility. But the project is behind schedule and municipal officials say the recent hot, humid weather is making matters worse. 

Noakes, who lives on Aalders Avenue, said the pungent odour didn't seem quite as bad last spring and summer. The smell comes and goes but when it arrives, she said she can't sit in her garden or barbecue outside.

Sometimes, it even wakes her up at night.

"It follows you in," she said. "You absolutely have to close your windows or you can't even sit inside your own house."

Sewage upgrade hits snag

Other residents of New Minas have registered their disgust on the village's Facebook page in recent weeks, urging local leaders to do something. One resident commented that the odour is so bad it burns her eyes.

"I'd like to certainly apologize for the impact that the facility is having on residents," said Scott Quinn, the director of engineering and public works for the Municipality of the County of Kings.

The regional plant in New Minas is the municipality's largest, and services Kentville, New Minas, Coldbrook, Greenwich and several private industries.

I'd like to certainly apologize for the impact that the facility is having on residents.- Scott Quinn, Municipality of the County of Kings

Quinn said the issue is "some heavy biological loading" from companies that use the plant.

Wastewater that's discharged into the system is "fairly biologically active," which he said strips some of the oxygen out of the atmosphere, causing the odour.

"The warmer weather tends to aggravate that problem and that's [what] we've seen this year," he said.

He said the municipality is working with one of the companies that uses the plant, PepsiCo, to upgrade the aeration system and desludge certain areas. The Village of New Minas and Town of Kentville are also partners on the upgrade project. 

Work could start in 2-3 weeks

The desludging was supposed to begin this spring, but Quinn said bids for the work came back much higher than expected.

"We are working through a process to try to get that phase back on track," he said.

The plan now is to start desludging the smelliest area of the plant in the next two or three weeks, Quinn said.

He said while the smell is annoying, he doesn't believe it poses a health risk. 

"We're certainly very mindful that with the warmer weather … everybody wants to be back outside," he said. 

Noakes said residents can't wait much longer. 

"If something isn't done to treat the smell, then we're not going to have much of a summer at all," she said. 

With files from CBC Radio's Maritime Noon

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