The Town of Lunenburg is engaging an environmental stewardship charity to create a program focused on the UNESCO World Heritage site's harbour health.
The group will also work with the town to create a plan to monitor water quality.
Lunenburg's committing $3,000 toward the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (BCAF) taking the lead on a stakeholder program and is negotiating a detailed harbour monitoring proposal - including costs and schedule - with the organization.
The arrangement could start this year and continue into late 2018.
Brooke Nodding and Shanna Fredericks of BCAF presented the concept to town council October 24.
The town has heard concerns about sludge-like sightings near the inshore fishermen's wharf, but water testing from various sites in the harbour have yielded conflicting results about its safety for recreational use.
Fredericks implied a potential culprit could be the 20-plus straight pipes in the neighbouring community of Garden Lots discharging untreated sewage into the harbour. "The average three bedroom home discharges about 1,000 litres of wastewater everyday," Fredericks told council.
The tidal current and harbour's shape could help carry the raw matter to the town's waterfront area, she noted.
Confirming the source of the harbour water issue is important to town officials. Councillor John McGee is among civic politicians hoping that BCAF can help.
"If it's the sewage treatment plant, we'll deal with it. If it's not, we'll deal with it," he said.
Guidelines for water testing differ between what's acceptable for a sewage treatment plant and a harbour. As well, testers are also looking for different bacteria and measurement levels of contamination. Different government agencies set the standards for that kind of examination.
BCAF suggested sampling between spring and fall at the Broad Street boat launch (estimated cost $4,000), seasonal and rainfall dependant monitoring at five various sites including the mouth of the harbour ($10,000) and sediment analysis at four sites ($600).
"Taking a sample at single point in time at one location isn't going to give you answers," Nodding told council. Regular monitoring in regular conditions over a long period of time will offer a better understanding of the issue, she said.
The town is hosting a public meeting November 9 to share information around wastewater treatment, odour control and Lunenburg Harbour water quality programs.
Lunenburg is forging ahead with securing qualified expertise to examine the sewage plant's treatment process and collection system.
The town has already paid for engineering necessary to establish an odour control system at the sewage plant and recently the province and federal government promised $286,750 and $573,500 respectively toward installing a biofilter system to combat the problem.