Nova Scotia

Rural communities battle wastewater treatment problems after Dorian

In Annapolis County, N.S., the wastewater treatment plants have no power. In Lunenburg, N.S., the post-tropical storm flooded the plant, meaning it's shutoff indefinitely.

People in Annapolis County, N.S., being asked to limit water use until power comes back

Crews work to pump wastewater onto a truck in Annapolis Royal, N.S. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

Some rural communities in Nova Scotia are struggling to deal with unusable wastewater treatment plants after Hurricane Dorian.

Dorian approached the region as a Category 2 hurricane and made landfall near Halifax on Saturday evening as a post-tropical storm with hurricane-strength winds and caused widespread power outages.

The outages have meant affected wastewater treatment plants plants can't operate. When people in affected areas flush a toilet, it ends up at a station with no power.

Nova Scotia Power said in a statement on Tuesday that 38 water and sewage facilities were impacted by power outages. Of those, 31 have since had power restored.

The seven still without power are in:

  • Mabou Harbour.
  • Granville Ferry.
  • Port Hood.
  • Point Tupper.
  • Cole Harbour.
  • Mulgrave (two stations).

In Annapolis County, mobile generators are being brought to stations and trucks are pumping wastewater out.

Scott Henderson has been working long hours pumping wastewater in Annapolis County. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Officials are asking people in the Annapolis Valley communities of Granville Ferry, Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown, Bear River, Cornwallis Park and Margaretsville to limit their water use until the power comes back on.

Scott Henderson, who works for Connell's Septic Services in Granville Ferry, said he's been working long hours since the storm pumping wastewater, but there's been lots of support from the community.

"That house there brought us supper a couple nights ago and coffee," he said, pointing to a white house in Annapolis Royal.

"In fact, she went around the neighbourhood with a pot of coffee to these houses around this station here too."

The town of Lunenburg, N.S, has faced unexpected problems with its sewage treatment plant. (Emma Davie/CBC)

But in Lunenburg, the wastewater treatment plant hasn't been on since Saturday afternoon because saltwater from the town's back harbour flooded into the plant.

"If anyone has a flood I'm sure they can appreciate it's bad, but when it's at a treatment plant, it's even more so," said Mayor Rachel Bailey.

"There's electrical equipment in there, so it had to be shut down for the safety of the people who work there and to prevent more catastrophic, potentially, damage."

No timeline for system repair

She said it's too early to tell when it will be repaired. Town staff, along with electricians, technicians and other experts, are assessing the damage.

"This was not something that we could foresee or knew a way to prevent," said Bailey.

The mayor of Lunenburg, Rachel Bailey, says it's too early to say when the wastewater treatment plant will be fully operational. (CBC)

If there's some kind of system failure at the plant, or if it rains heavily, a hydraulic system puts raw sewage into the harbour. This kind of system is in place at most treatment plants, because it stops excess water from backing up into people's homes.

But it can mean trouble for those who work along the harbour.

"It just makes it bad to work around," said fisherman Ken Strowbridge. "It slimes your boat all up."

'My lines are a mess'

Bill Flower, who runs a charter business and is a commercial fisherman in the area, said he's been using rubber gloves when working near one of the six outfall sites in the harbour.

"The side of my boat is a mess right now, my lines are a mess," he said.

Flower said he wants to see the town move one particular outfall pipe away from where people work on the harbour, so that when these kind of things happen, the workers aren't dealing with it quite so closely.

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With files from Preston Mulligan and Aly Thomson

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