September 26, 2001

The Moncton Times and Transcript

Sewage pools in river
by Tammy Scott-Wallace

Odours most familiar when driving through the country have been greeting business people on their stroll to work in downtown Moncton this week. Daniel LeBlanc of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper is convinced the smell is evidence of a nearly extinct river.

He said because of extremely high levels of sediment in the Petitcodiac River which has transformed the river into a mere trickle, the outflow from Metro Moncton’s sewage lagoon is sitting still on the river bed. “No one can be 100 per cent certain a smell drifting across town is actually associated with one source, but we’re very suspicious,” LeBlanc said. “There is one issue which is certain. With the amount ** of sediment in the river, the sewage that’s coming from the ** treatment plant can no longer be diluted. ** “Any water sitting in the channel is basically water coming from the ** sewage treatment plant.” ** Metro Moncton residents produce up to 50 million litres of sewage a day. “That is all sitting in a stagnant pool,” LeBlanc said. “When we flush our toilet or drain our bathtub, that is what goes into our sewer system, is treated, and flows from the lagoon into the river. When that accumulates in the way it is, of course there’s a strong odour.” With the extreme silt build-up, the tidal bore is barely reaching the causeway. “You have absolutely no flow at this stage,” LeBlanc explained. “In a (healthy) river you still have very rapid flow even at low tide, but people have to understand the river is no longer there. “Those old enough to remember the Petitcodiac in the ’50s or ’60s will visualize a considerable flow. The river is expected to be over one-kilometre wide, bringing in large tides from the Bay of Fundy every day, but today in certain sections the river is 90 per cent filled, in other areas, it’s 98 or 99 per cent filled in.” ** Environmental standards for the outflow from the plant includes a ** dilution factor of eight to one, meaning eight units of water for every unit of sewage. “The dilution is now zero to one, or at the very most one to one,” ** LeBlanc said. “There is much more sewage than water. It’s a river of ** sewage. ** “We have a situation now where we feel the plant is operating outside its permit limits,” he continued. “Our issue is not with the ** people who run the plant. They are very professional and advanced in ** how they manage and treat the sewage in the region. “The simple reality is the worse the river gets, the worse everything gets – the fish passage, the sewage odour, the bore.” LeBlanc directs the blame at the provincial government which has ** neglected to conduct an environmental impact assessment on the river or make plans to open the causeway gates in order for the free flow of water and river life. “It’s as if the only purpose of the river now is to serve as a ditch for the outflow of our sewage,” LeBlanc said. “What has the province done to our river?” Conrad Allain, manager of operations for the Greater Moncton Sewage Commission, said the odours that have drifted to his nose have not been the one he’s most familiar with. His office is in Riverview, where he said the smell hasn’t been as obvious as it’s been claimed to be in Moncton. “I received reports and I checked all obvious sources, but I couldn’t locate the smell,” he said. “I searched the obvious spots around the plant (on Monday and Tuesday), but everything was fine.” In his attempt to track the odour which people in Moncton have been unable to avoid, Allain said he drove many miles of the region and located a strong smell of animal manure in the vicinity of Mill Creek towards Hillsborough, and again in the Beaubassin area of the Dieppe marsh. “I don’t know what the smell is in town,” he said. “I’m at a loss here.

“There are definitely animal smells coming from the southeast, that’s the
only smell I could confirm,” he continued. “I would know the difference between sewage and animal manure right away, I just can’t catch the smell people are getting (in the city.)” He said odours from manure spreading could be to blame for the unpleasant odour in downtown Moncton. “It’s humid, it’s hot, it’s hazy, which means an odour can hug the ground and carry a fair distance until the wind breaks it up,” Allain suggested. “The wind has been coming from the northeast and southeast, which could bring the smell upriver. I do know animal manure is in the process of being spread down river.” Allain doesn’t argue the river is shallow, nor does he fully disagree with LeBlanc who suggests the smell is caused by a build-up of sewage in the stagnant river. “It’s been a difficult summer at best. There have been low, low, low flows, low dilution, hot temperatures and high humidity,” he said. ” I don’t have any answers yet but I will continue to monitor it to determine the clear direction and source. We can only do something about it if it’s tied to us.” He said with the flow expected to be low the rest of this week, he will have ample opportunity to further study the odour and its ** possible connection to the sewage treatment plant shared by the communities of Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe. ** The Department of Environment was contacted yesterday for comment. ** The department’s spokesman only said sewage systems are a municipal responsibility, and until informed by the press, the department knew nothing about the odour problem in Moncton. Further information was unavailable by the department.