While attempts to clean up the LaHave River suffered a setback last month as raw sewage from more than 1,000 homes spilled into the waterway when a broken discharge pipe flooded a Bridgewater pumping station, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg's (MODL's) straight pipe replacement program is moving full steam ahead.
In her latest update to MODL's council members at their meeting on February 27, the project's coordinator, Maria Butts, said that the program has received 92 applications for replacement systems since it got off the ground officially last November.
"So those are those property owners that have voluntarily come forward and said, 'I have a straight pipe and I'd like to enrol in the program,'" Butts reported.
It has been estimated that approximately 600 homes along the LaHave have straight pipes feeding into the river.
MODL, the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government are each contributing a third of the $17 million program that is working with homeowners on a cost-sharing scheme to replace the straight pipes.
The municipality has received 527 confirmations from property owners that they have approved systems on their property.
That's a big jump from the initial 40 that had come through prior to her updating council in December, Butts noted.
"[It's] really exciting to see those numbers coming in and the response from the public," she said.
So far the municipality has signed 58 formal replacement agreements with the 92 homeowners, allowing it to begin the design work on new systems.
Butts says she's reached out to the remaining 34 homeowners and is starting to hear back from them as well.
Able Engineering of Chester, which won the tender for the program's design work, has completed 33 designs and submitted them to Butts and is actively working on 22 more for submission over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, MODL staff have also been liaising with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment, which is searching its records to find information on properties within the program area.
The department found 114 new records that the municipality did not have.
"That's 114 properties that right away we can tick off the list," said Butts.
Butts reports that she's also spoken to "hundreds" of homeowners on the phone and had verbal confirmation from 121 of them that they have approved systems.
"If we put that all together, we've heard from well over 860 residents in the program area, which is over 50 per cent of the properties," Butts told the council members.
"So just in a really short time we've made a lot of really big progress, and are looking forward to seeing that continue as we move forward with the program."
The municipality is bundling like system designs together, as well as those in close proximity to each other.
The packages are being tendered out in groups of five or 10, at the request of MODL's council, which wanted to ensure contracting companies of all sizes have the capacity to bid on the work.
At the meeting on February 27, council members awarded Gerhardt Property Improvement the contract to complete installation of the project's first five replacement systems. Gerhardt entered the lowest bid at $51,740 plus HST for the five systems.
Butts said she and Able Engineering will oversee all the installations.