Mill Road Social Services client Jason Poirier (left) and summer student Kevin Windle made a sign for the Cottage Closet last week when then smell from the Inverness sewage treatment plant forced it to close.
-by Anne Farries
Not only is the Inverness village sewage treatment plant too small, it has also been poisoned.
Trudy Gillis, facility manager for Inverness County, told an emergency council meeting Tuesday that she recommends a new bylaw to force people to stop flushing substances that are lethal to the plant’s bacteriological digestion of sewage.
“The issue with the Inverness plant – it is overloaded – but there is a substance being discharged through the sewer that has killed the plant,” Gillis said.
The entire county needs the bylaw “to ensure protection of the infrastructure,” she said.
“The (village) of Inverness is a prime example.”
“There is a substance being discharged into the sewer system currently that is killing off the bugs that keep the wastewater treatment plant from working properly.”
“These bugs or bacteria assist in consuming the solids and harmful phosphorus and nitrates that are found in wastewater.”
“This discharge has caused the bugs to die off and the plant to go septic.
“Without them, we have no treatment.”
Gillis said she can see black sludge accumulating in the plant. To pinpoint the source, staff have begun taking samples from manholes throughout the village.
“Until this bylaw is in place, we are unable to go back to companies or individuals who discharge substances that are harmful to our treatment process into our system with fines or potential removal from our system.”
“So, we have to get the sewer discharge bylaw pushed through.”
Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie noted that enacting a bylaw can take months.
Under provincial law, the county must notify the public of proposed bylaws and allow time for the public to respond.
Councillor Jim Mustard said that if the county can identify the source of the damaging discharge, he hopes the person or business will cooperate voluntarily without the county resorting to punishment.
In the meantime, Gillis told council about the steps that county staff have been taking to buoy up the aged and overloaded plant.
“We repaired both the sludge pumps and installed timers to ensure they operate in automatic (mode).”
“We’ve had Mill Creek Environmental from Sydney with their vacuum trucks on site five different occasions to assist in removing heavy sludge from the bottom of the clarifiers (lagoons).”
“We’ve repaired the aeration header on the town side of the lagoon on June 11th.”
“We pulled the water-side aeration line from the lagoon and cleaned the diffusers on July 24th.”
“We’ve made repairs to the aeration blower at the sludge digester.”
“The UV lights have been pulled out and cleaned regularly by staff, and we’re about to install a flow totalizer. It’s been ordered and I’m hoping it will be installed by the end of the week. This will measure what flow is going through the plant.” Gillis said that step is necessary so that engineers can decide how big a future plant should be.
“It’s really hard for them to (recommend) the size of the plant when we have no idea what’s going through it,” she said.
Gillis’ department “continues to work with NS Environment regarding wastewater treatment plant issues in Inverness,” she said. “They’ve given us some direction that they would like the municipality to take in regards to ongoing treatment issues.”
“Once we’re able to eliminate the harmful discharge, staff will begin taking the wastewater treatment plant down to clean.”
The goal is to turn Inverness’s former aeration lagoon into a “lay down area” equipped with geotubes – large canvas storage bags – which will be filled with dewatered sludge. The tubes will sit for at least two years until all liquid is drained from them and the sludge is decomposed. It will then be spread over older parts of the Kenloch landfill site.
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