Le cas du... caca ! - Réflexions sur les
eaux d'égouts non traitées dans le port de Saint-Jean
cité de Saint-Jean a l'un des plus vieux systèmes d'eaux et d'égouts en
Amérique du Nord. Ce système requiert une modernisation évaluée à 216
$ millions. C'est par l'entremise de 55 émissaires d'évacuation que
quarante-huit pour cent des milliards de litres d'eaux usées non traitées
de la ville sont déchargés directement dans le port de Saint-Jean, Marsh
Creek, Dukhman's Creek ou dans la Saint-Jean.
implications sociales, économiques et environnementales de cette pratique
ont des conséquences importantes pour notre communauté. Le public et
ceux intéressés à l'environnement doivent se faire entendre aux niveaux
provincial et fédéral. Nous avons besoin d'aide ici à Saint-Jean parce
qu'on ne peut pas réussir à nous seuls.
Waste not, want not
Reflections on untreated sewage
in Saint John Harbour
Saint John Citizens Coalition for Clean Air
image that comes to mind when thinking about the contamination of the Saint John
Harbour and surrounding watercourses is the visible material washing up along
the beaches from the billions of litres of untreated sewage dumped
and St. John River. This image becomes obvious during the Annual Beach Sweep
Cleanup. The City of
has one of the oldest municipal water and sewage systems in
North America. It needs a 216 million dollar upgrade. Forty-eight percent of the
city’s sewage simply flows untreated through one of the 55 raw
sewage outfall pipes directly into the
Harbour, Marsh Creek, Dukhman’s Creek or the
St. John River.
(photo: Gordon Dalzell)
It can be difficult to discuss the
subject of untreated sewage waste. There really is no nice way
to describe dumping 8.1 billion litres of raw sewage into our
waterways. As one volunteer that lends support to try and clean up
these associated beaches and surrounding land, I have seen and smelled
the disgusting impact this current practice has on the environment.
There is no way to minimize the sight of raw sewage flowing out of
gigantic pipes and flowing into Marsh Creek or Saint John Harbour. For example, in the hot summer period, this sewage finds its way to
the banks of Marsh Creek. Once the tidal flow from
flushes out the water and other solids, some of this material remains
on the banks of Marsh Creek. This leftover material literally
“bakes” in the sun, giving off an unforgettable sewage smell
equivalent to the contents of thousands of toilet bowels being
flushed. The odour, which permeates the surrounding area of
Haymarket Square, is nauseating.
ACAP Saint John has been a strong
leader in our community in respect to the environmental quality of the
Harbour and its tributaries. This multi-stakeholder community group has
launched several important and valuable services to help deal with
this problem. One is the Community Environmental Monitoring Program
that carefully assesses and monitors water quality in the Greater
Saint John area, including Saint John Harbour and its tributaries.
One of the most popular programs is
the annual Beach Sweep Cleanup. This provides the public with an
opportunity to get involved in actually cleaning up the beaches. This
year, four hundred volunteers participated in cleaning up two and half
tonnes of debris. Equally popular is the Annual Earth Day project
called Marsh Creek Sweep that sees volunteers cleaning up the banks of
Marsh Creek. The Drain Painting Program is a public awareness effort
which reminds people not to dump their hazardous material down their
drains, as it ends up eventually flowing into the Saint John
and surrounding waterways.
While attending a conference several
years ago at a local hotel beside the
Harbour, one of the guest presenters from the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) in Washington
needed to do more to clean up the Harbour. The sewage could be viewed
out the window, evident by all the green algae surrounding the outfall
pipe that emptied into the
Harbour. The social, economic and environmental implications of this practice
do have significant consequences for our community.
(photo: Gordon Dalzell)
How bad is this problem? What has
been done? What further needs to be done to clean up this problem of
dumping this sewage into the Saint John Harbour, St. John River and
To be fair, it is important to give
the City of Saint John
credit for its efforts to treat its sewage.
The City of Saint John
developed a Waste Water Strategy in 1993 with an update prepared in
year 2000. The goal of this strategy is to clean up and treat all the
sewage in 10 years. This City is committed to this plan and has
financed existing sewage treatment facilities to handle 50% of the
sewage. The challenge now is to come up with the financial resources
to treat the remaining fifty percent of the sewage. Compared to
Newfoundland, who dump all their sewage into their harbours and ultimately the
Atlantic Ocean, the City of
has at least made an effort to treat 50% of its sewage.
The citizens and users in
will be doing their share by paying for significantly higher water and
sewage bills over the next 10 years. The City of Saint John
is prepared to pay one third of the cost pending the financial
commitments of the Provincial and Federal Governments.
One of the most discouraging aspects
of this waste issue is the lack of funding commitments from both the
Provincial and Federal Governments. No municipality can be expected to
go it alone and handle the massive costs associated with the sewage
treatment infrastructure. That is why this community was holding its
breath (and nose as well) waiting for the Prime Minister to announce
Federal Government funding for the Saint John Harbour Cleanup (similar
to what was announced early this Fall for Halifax and St. John’s,
Newfoundland). No Federal funding or commitment was announced.
Marsh Creek outfall =======
(photo: Gordon Dalzell)
This City is actively engaged in
Harbour Front Development planning, and it looks like things are
beginning to shape up as a competition between funding priorities for
Harbour Front Development and/or Saint John Harbour Clean Up.
While visiting Saint John on November 28, the Prime Minister mentioned
in his speech that he liked what is being proposed for the Saint John
Harbour Front Development, which for many signaled that future Federal
funding may be directed in that direction as opposed to Saint John
Harbour Clean Up. From an environmental perspective, this would be
disappointing to say the least.
Now where is the Provincial
Government on this issue in terms of funding commitments? The
answer is nowhere at this time. There are other spending priorities
that have the present attention of the Provincial Government.
Our community cannot do what is
needed to clean up this serious sewage waste problem by itself, nor
should it be expected to bear the entire financial burden. This City
is in a financial budget squeeze and without other levels of
government help this practice of dumping raw sewage into the Harbour
will continue. This is not acceptable!
The problem of cleaning up the
Saint John Harbour
is a good example of how the values and priorities of society can
impact environmental issues. Choices were made in the past which
placed important infrastructure and project funding to different
interests--at the expense of cleaning up this untreated sewage going
into the Harbour. Other issues and projects won the day, with funding
being spent on them.
What will be the funding priorities
in the next few years? Will we see the funding priority being given to
cleaning up all the remaining sewage or will other projects and
developments get first priority? It is important for the public and
those concerned about the environment to have their voices heard at
the Provincial and Federal levels. We need help here in Saint John
because we cannot do it alone.