Nova Scotia

High concentrations of fecal matter found in Lunenburg harbour

The mayor of Lunenburg, N.S., says it will take some time to gather meaningful insight from water quality analysis that most recently showed high concentrations of fecal matter in the town's harbour at three of five sites tested.

'I would have been much happier had they all been positive results,' says Mayor Rachel Bailey

Lunenburg Mayor Rachel Bailey said more work needs to be done to determine what influenced high fecal bacteria readings. (CBC)

The mayor of Lunenburg, N.S., says it will take some time to gather meaningful insight from water quality analysis that most recently showed high concentrations of fecal matter in the town's harbour at three of five sites tested.

The quality of the harbour recently made headlines after a tour operator described thick, brown sludge flowing from a sewage plant into the water below a busy wharf.

That prompted a Nova Scotia teen whose school science project helped shine a light on pollution in the LaHave River to turn her attention toward Lunenburg harbour. Stella Bowles collected a number of samples and reported high levels of fecal bacteria (enterococci).

"There have been some recent events that have gotten some attention as far as the quality of the water in the harbour, so we will be doing more testing," said Lunenburg Mayor Rachel Bailey.

The town's tests were conducted at five locations: the Broad Street boat launch, Fishermen's Wharf, Zwicker Wharf, Railway Wharf and a pumping station near Tannery Road.

Stella Bowles collected samples from four places at Lunenburg harbour on Friday, Aug. 11. (Andrea Conrad)

The tests measure the amount of enterococci per 100 millilitres of water. A result under 70 is considered safe for activities like swimming, surfing and diving, while a result above 70 and below 175 would be only OK for things like rowing, sailing or fishing. Enterococci levels above that shouldn't even touch human skin.

The town's samples were all taken Wednesday, Aug. 16, and showed test results of:

  • Fishermen's Wharf — 2,613
  • Broad Street boat launch — 573
  • Tannery Road — 132
  • Zwicker Wharf — 10
  • Railway Wharf — 10

A document put out by the town notes the results only represent a specific point in time as "as water quality results can change at any time based on a variety of natural and other factors and uses occurring in the harbour." As such, drawing comparisons between the numbers isn't wise.

"I would have been much happier had they all been positive results, of course, so I don't think we can put to bed the issue or the fact there may be cause for concern," said Bailey.

The outfall for Lunenburg's sewage treatment plant is located directly below the busy inshore Fishermen's Wharf. (Submitted by Bill Flower)

She said the town will now be doing weekly tests to develop a better understanding of the situation.

"I think it would be a little foolhardy perhaps to read too much into [the results] without any context or any scientific analysis or an appreciation of the conditions and what may have influenced the outcomes or the results of the testing," said Bailey.

Recognizing a problem

Bowles was pleased with what the tests found.

"I think it's great Lunenburg will now be testing the water weekly. The results actually did support my results," she said.

Her science mentor, Dr. David Maxwell, a retired physician, said he's happy with what the town is doing.

"I think that the town is doing exactly the right thing. They have recognized now that they have a problem. They're doing an excellent job," said Maxwell.