Nova Scotia

Smelly sewage during busy tourism year lands Inverness County in court

Inverness County is going to court after Nova Scotia's Environment Department issued two summary offence tickets for odour and bacterial discharge from the sewage system in the town of Inverness dating back to 2019.

N.S. Environment Department issued 2 summary offence tickets in December, 18 months after public complaints

Inverness Development Association president Rose Mary MacDonald organized a rally in 2019 over odour and bacterial discharge from the town's sewage system. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Inverness County is heading to court after Nova Scotia's Environment Department issued two summary offence tickets related to a foul odour stemming from one of the community's wastewater lagoons.

The county faces two fines of $700 each for the stench and an excessive E. coli count coming from the sewage system in the town of Inverness in the summer of 2019.

Keith MacDonald, the county's chief administrative officer, said the county has spent about $200,000 fixing the sewage system after multiple complaints from the public in 2019, which he described as a "significant tourism year."

"We had a good deal of visitors to the area. The amount of material entering the plant surpassed its capacity," he said.

Complaints reached a boiling point over the persistent smell and black discharge going into the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the wastewater lagoon, which sits on the edge of town just above the upscale Cabot Links golf course and the community's popular public beach.

County officials addressed more than 200 people at a public rally at the Inverness Miners' Museum — next to the sewage treatment plant  — saying the wastewater lagoon had gone septic, but they were working to fix it.

Tickets issued 18 months later

The tickets list the date of the offences as July 31, 2019. However, the tickets were not issued until 18 months later in December 2020.

The Environment Department said it can issue summary offence tickets within two years of an alleged offence. It declined to comment on the Inverness tickets as the matter is before the court.

MacDonald would not say how the county intends to plead, but it is scheduled to appear in Port Hawkesbury provincial court May 18 to enter a plea and set a trial date.

"We'll be working towards that date with staff to determine our approach as a municipal unit," he said.

The sewage system has been working well, but last year there were far fewer tourists in town because of the COVID-19 pandemic, MacDonald said.

"Our team has made many improvements to the plant and certainly we've repaired and replaced a number of components in the processing system," he said.

Study on funding due soon

MacDonald also said a predesign study on a new, larger sewage treatment plant for the town of Inverness is expected to be completed in the next few months.

That study will be used to seek funding from other levels of government to replace the existing system, he said.



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?