Pelting rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the group of government officials, staff of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL), and a few other people who gathered in Riverport April 30 for the ground-breaking ceremony of MODL's straight pipe replacement program.
While the rain fell outside, the group collected in the Riverport Community Centre to hear a series of short speeches by those most closely tied to the program. Then everyone donned their rain jackets and drove in convoy down the road to the home where the program's first septic system was to be installed for a soggy, shovel-on-the-ground photo.
"We are here today to officially begin the LaHave River Straight Pipe Replacement Project, an initiative that will see the Lower LaHave River straight- pipe free by 2023, an initiative for clean, healthy waterways that residents and visitors will be able to enjoy safely," declared MODL mayor Carolyn Bolivar-Getson.
The $17 million project is a collaboration between MODL, the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government. It's aimed at replacing the estimated 600 residential straight pipe systems that are spewing raw sewage from homes into the LaHave River.
Bolivar-Getson said that, so far, more than 100 residents have applied to have their systems replaced, "which is great."
The MLA for Lunenburg, Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, who was there on behalf of the Nova Scotia minister of municipal affairs, Derek Mombourquette, thanked those residents who are among the first to replace their systems.
"Spread the word and get more of your neighbours on board so that they are participating in this project," she said.
The MP for South Shore-St.Margaret's, Bernadette Jordan, commented that she grew up swimming in the river. "Maybe my grand-kids will be able to swim in it some day."
Stella Bowles, the Bridgewater student whose science project testing fecal bacteria levels in the river spurred the governments into action, was the last to speak.
"I'm standing here as a youth who knows that kids can make a difference. Positive change is possible, and we have all proved that today," she said.
However, while she called the program a "great start," Bowles reminded everyone that straight pipes are beyond the river.
"They are completely illegal. Enforcement is long over due.
"I hope the provincial government will go to the next step and make it mandatory, when a house is sold anywhere in the province with a straight pipe the illegal pipe must be replaced."
Former MODL mayor Don Downe, who, along with his council, was instrumental in helping Bowles kick-start the inter-governmental project, attended as well.
"Like I said a number of years ago, it takes a lot of stars and moons and everything to line up in the heavens to make this happen. Stella is one of those stars that helped put the face on the project," he said, adding that she helped keep the focus on commitment to our youth.
"It was everything coming together. It's just wonderful news," he told LighthouseNOW.
Lately Bowles has been working with students in Wolfville, teaching them her research techniques. And while she's not naming locations just yet, she says there are a couple of other places lined up for action as well.
"I'm not done yet," said Bowles.