Public turns out in force to meeting over Lunenburg harbour and wastewater questions

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>KEITH CORCORAN PHOTO</p><p>A Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation representative speaks to a Lunenburg meeting attendee.</p>
  • <p>KEITH CORCORAN PHOTO</p><p>Lunenburg&#8217;s town engineer Marc Belliveau, left, answers questions during the November 9 information session.</p>
  • <p>KEITH CORCORAN PHOTO</p><p>Lunenburg&#8217;s fire station filled with meeting attendees.</p>

Some exasperated citizens peppered politicians and professionals with a myriad of questions during a lengthy meeting designed to share information over Lunenburg's wastewater woes and harbour health concerns.

Nor was the meeting without controversy: Police escorted Bill Flower - who has repeatedly expressed concern over the state of the harbour - out of the November 9th gathering.

Town officials allowed for an open question-and-answer session by request during which some people articulated annoyance with the high profile of unresolved issues. One woman, who didn't want to give her name, wondered about a real strategy and plan.

"I think clearly there's a lot of frustration in the room. We are really hopeful that there are going to be steps in which things are addressed," she said during the meeting that eclipsed the two-hour mark. "This is a UNESCO site; surely we ought to have a harbour that you're not going to get contaminated putting your hand in if you're out kayaking."

Representatives from the town's engineering department, an engineering consulting firm and an environmental stewardship charity presented to a packed fire hall.

Shanna Fredericks of the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (BCAF) gave an overview about fecal bacterial contamination and potential contamination sources in a marine/salt water environment.

Town engineer Marc Belliveau spoke about the wastewater treatment plant process and testing guidelines, and the meeting also heard from Dave Trudel of CBCL Engineering. Trudel's firm is designing the soon-to-be installed biofilter odour control system at the wastewater treatment plant.

BCAF is working with the town to create a plan to monitor water quality. Lunenburg is committing $3,000 toward BCAF taking the lead on a stakeholder program and is negotiating a detailed harbour monitoring proposal - including costs and schedule - with the organization.

The town has heard concerns about sludge-like sightings near the inshore fishermen's wharf, with water testing results from various sites in the harbour yielding concerning results about its safety for recreational use.

BCAF's told the town that 20-plus straight pipes in the neighbouring community of Garden Lots in the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg is discharging untreated sewage into the harbour. A Garden Lots resident told the meeting her property has one of the straight pipes. She said the issue's been talked about for years. "Your harbour is not going to be clean until this is dealt with," she said.

Lunenburg's assured the public that the wastewater treatment plant operates within its design capacity and meets federal and provincial treatment test standards as verified by independent and accredited labs. The town is also forging ahead with securing qualified expertise to examine the plant's treatment process and collection system and is establishing an odour control system.

Lunenburg Mayor Rachel Bailey told the meeting the town is making an effort to fix the problems. "Maybe it doesn't look like a masterplan at the moment," she said, "but we are working toward solutions to each of the issues that have been identified."

Bailey told LighthouseNOW after the meeting that the session was good value for time because all sides had a chance to talk and relay good, balanced information.

Police escort Bill Flower out of meeting

RCMP escorted one of the individuals most vocal about the health of the harbour out of the public meeting not long after it started.

Bill Flower told LighthouseNOW that police told him someone "directed from the town" contacted the police to have him removed.

Two uniformed officers arrived at the fire hall; appearing in the back of the room where Flower was sitting. Flower got up and exited out the back with the police.

"I went into the kitchen ... with them and they wouldn't even let me walk out through the front of the building," he said. "They said if I needed to get my coat they would go get it for me. And they said, 'do you need a ride home?' I said 'no.' They said, 'well, you have to leave the meeting' ...."

Flower, a tour boat operator and resident of Garden Lots, recently pleaded not guilty to a charge of assaulting Bailey in August. He's alleged to have smeared the mayor with sewage from the harbour.

Bailey released a statement saying "another person participating in the exchange put his hands on me in a manner that is unacceptable" during a verbal exchange on the Lunenburg waterfront. The trial is scheduled for April.

Flower's subject to an undertaking that includes a clause that he abstain from direct or indirect communication with Bailey or from going to her residence or place of employment while she is present.

Flower told LighthouseNOW that he phoned police before the session indicating his interest in attending and also said a town councillor told him he'd be welcome there.

"I did make an effort to ask if it was okay if I went," added Flower, 57. "I think it's very embarrassing to be escorted out of a town meeting by the RCMP."

Flower said the police told him he wouldn't be charged.

"I don't anticipate any charges as a result of what took place last evening," Lunenburg district RCMP Staff Sgt. Stephen MacQueen told LighthouseNOW in an email.

"Mr. Flower was asked to leave last night in order to prevent any breach of his current [court-ordered] conditions," MacQueen added. "Mr. Flower took the [police's] advice and left without incident."

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