Sewage stink coming from Sydney Tar Ponds

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Sept. 25, 2003

The putrid smell of raw sewage permeating from the Sydney tar ponds will likely continue until there is a significant rainfall, say officials.

"When everything is under water it stops most of the odour from emanating from the site," said Mike MacKeigan, utilities manager for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

At least a foot of the shoreline normally covered by water is now exposed, he said. Hot temperatures and prolonged dry weather is adding to the problent as well as a broken coffer dam in the south pond that has yet to be repaired. The structure has a worn out seal that has allowed water from the site's south pond to seep out the bottom since July. Contractors are waiting for appropriate tidal action so the work can be carried out.

"Everything is against us in terms of the smell, " said Mackeigan. Residents around the site as well as those working nearby, are being forced to endure the stench until the next big rain fall or the cold weather arrives, he added.

Possible options are being considered to keep the stink to a minimum for next summer. Those options are to keep water at levels high enough to cover the pond sediment or to carefillly determine a chemical additive that's biodegradable and can neutralize the odour, said MacKeigan.

As far as the new interceptor sewer system redirecting sewage from the tar ponds to the harbour off Battery Point, that will take at least another year, he said. The interceptor sewer is about 98 per cent complete but more testing of the new system is required over the winter. And, once finished, the $14-million system will remain dormant for at least a year.

A new sewage treatment facility needs to be constructed at the end of the sewer line at Battery Point before the interceptor sewer can operate. Tenders for the plant are expected in October, said MacKeigan with tenders to be awarded likely in November. Then timeline for completion will be finalized.

The municipality estimates the sewage treatment facility will be completed by November of 2004, he said. "That's still the optimistic date we're looking for" Until that time, 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage and water will continue to be dumped into the tar ponds daily

"The end is in sight," he, said. "It's very annoying at times like this when the smell is as repugnant as it is, but it's more important to recognize and be aware that we do have a solution."

The sewage will be removed from the Washbrook and the tar ponds and it will be treated. "We are making a long-term, environmentally (sound) decision in respect to this."