Nova Scotia

New $5.9M sewage plant will support future growth in Whycocomagh and We'koqma'q

The project, which is being funded by three levels of government, involves replacing the existing Whycocomagh sewage plant, which is more than four decades old and also services the We'koqma'q First Nation.

The cost of replacing the existing 44-year-old facility will be shared by three levels of government

The new sewage treatment plant will be built on land next to the current facility in Whycocomagh. (Robert Short/CBC)

Two rural communities in Nova Scotia's Inverness County are getting a new sewage system pegged at $5.8 million.

The cost of replacing the existing Whycocomagh sewage plant, which is more than four decades old and also services the We'koqma'q First Nation, is being shared among three levels of government.

"It will be a full rebuild on land adjoining the current site," said Inverness CAO Keith MacDonald. "We're working to ensure everything is ready to go forward to a construction phase."

MacDonald said design work is underway, but research is needed to determine the required capacity of waste disposal.

The current plant averages a capacity of 773 cubic metres of waste per day. 

Reaching maximum capacity 

MacDonald said there are times, like during major storms, when water runoff has nearly overflowed the sewage system.

"We have to look at population projections," MacDonald said of the design planning. "It's a balancing act between forecasting future demands."

MacDonald said the existing plant will be decommissioned once the new facility is up and running. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The treatment plant received its last major upgrade nearly 30 years ago, and most people living in Whycocomagh and We'koqma'q rely on it for their waste disposal.

Officials say the project will support any further housing or business developments within both communities. 

"The vision of We'koqma'q is to improve the overall quality of life and well-being of all community members," said Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley of the We'koqma'q First Nation.

"We know that this aligns with our vision and will be a transformative change for the community."

New plant to be running by March 2024

Project partners say design for the replacement plant, which will feature ultraviolet disinfection of bacteria and a backup generator for power outages, will wrap in January 2022. The building is expected to be operational by March 2024.

Inverness is contributing $1.5 million to the project, while the province is chipping in close to $2 million. The remaining $2.3 million will come from Ottawa.

MacDonald said that once the switchover is completed, the former plant will be decommissioned. At this time, there is no projected lifespan for the new facility.

Other improvements needed

Whycocomagh and We'koqma'q are not the only two places in Inverness County in need of a sewage upgrade.

Nova Scotia's Environment Department issued fines to Inverness County for stench and high levels of bacteria coming from its system within the town of Inverness in the summer of 2019.

Deputy Warden Bonny MacIsaac said Inverness and Judique are in desperate need of sewage upgrades.

"It's one down, so we're just going from there," said MacIsaac. "Now we can start working and hopefully [get some] good news for the other communities."

MacIsaac said the age of the systems and population growth are two of the biggest issues driving the need for sewage upgrades.

Inverness officials say the reason the Whycocomagh project was put ahead of Inverness was because it was further along in the planning process.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

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