Nova Scotia

Inverness infrastructure overwhelmed by reeking smell of success

More than 200 people gathered at the Miners' Museum in Inverness, N.S., hoping the federal and provincial governments would hear their plea for funding to replace an overwhelmed sewage treatment system.

Officials say rapid commercial, residential growth from Cabot golf courses is swamping sewage treatment

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)

More than 200 people gathered at the Miners' Museum in Inverness, N.S., on Monday, hoping to send a message to the federal and provincial governments.

They say they welcome the rapid commercial and residential growth the Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs golf courses have brought to the town.

But they also say the smell of success has come at a cost. Their sewage treatment system has been overwhelmed, and they are asking for help.

"It's embarrassing to have to explain to tourists what this smell is," said Rose Mary MacDonald, president of the Inverness Development Association.

"We should not have to do that."

MacDonald organized the rally, and she said people are getting sick from the smell.

Part of beach closed

Part of the busy beach nearby was shut down over the weekend due to water quality concerns, which MacDonald said occurred in the same area where the pipe takes treated wastewater out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Miners' Museum overlooks the sewage treatment plant and lagoon.

Not far away, between the lagoon and the Gulf, golfers walked a fairway at Cabot Links.

Among the crowd on the museum's deck, some people carried signs and some wore breathing masks.

The view from the Inverness Miners' Museum deck: the town's sewage treatment plant and lagoon, golfers on a Cabot Links fairway and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Inverness County Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said the municipal council takes the issue very seriously.

"I do see it as a crisis," she said. "It's something we have to deal with right away."

The county has applied for federal and provincial funding for a new $6.3-million treatment plant, but MacQuarrie said there's no official word yet on the project's approval.

Keith MacDonald, Inverness County's chief administrative officer, told the crowd the municipality has been doing repairs at the sewage plant, but they haven't been able to keep up with the demand.

Keith MacDonald says the lagoon needs short-term work, but the solution is to replace the treatment system with a facility that has at least double the existing capacity. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

He said the lagoon has gone septic and the province will be called in to test the treated effluent pipe.

There may be some short-term work that can be done to get the lagoon back in action, MacDonald said, but the solution is to replace the treatment plant and lagoon with a facility that has at least double the existing capacity.

According to municipal figures, residential growth is up 31 per cent and commercial assessment is up more than 52 per cent over the past five years.

MacDonald said the municipality is having to turn away requests for new residential and commercial hookups due to capacity problems at the sewage plant.

In addition, he said, the county recently paid about $30,000 in fines to the provincial Environment Department for sewage treatment deficiencies in communities across the municipality.

Coun. Jim Mustard, who faced upset residents last summer over Inverness's aging infrastructure, says he hopes Dunmore Development will reconsider its housing project. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Jim Mustard, the town councillor for Inverness, said the situation is so bad, he's ready to push for stronger action.

"I'll advocate at council's first meeting, whether we have the funding or not, we'll go and borrow for it, so this gets done right now," he told the crowd.

Meanwhile, Rose Mary MacDonald said she intends to keep pressing for federal and provincial dollars.

The local MP, Rodger Cuzner, said Whycocomagh is likely going to get a new sewage treatment plant before the community of Inverness.

The county council submitted a funding application to the federal Infrastructure Canada Investing in Canada plan for both projects at the same time. The program involves federal and provincial money.

Rodger Cuzner, Liberal MP for Cape Breton-Canso, says Whycocomagh's project has been approved over the one in the town of Inverness, because Whycocomagh's already has design plans. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cuzner, who represents Cape Breton-Canso, said federal and provincial bureaucrats have told him the Whycocomagh project has been approved.

Cuzner said the request for a new system in the town of Inverness is still being considered.

"The one in Whycocomagh was further developed, more shovel-ready," he said.

"They had the design in place and the plans were in place, so for this period of time, the officials had indicated ... that's why they signed off for the one in Whycocomagh.

"Inverness still has work to do on the design, but I'm certain that the province understands that this is a very stark situation there, and it certainly has the attention of the officials in Infrastructure [Canada]."



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 17 years 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?