OP-ED Progress on Solutions for Lunenburg Harbour


August 1, 2018

The Town of Lunenburg is actively working to improve the water quality of our Harbour.  An article published in the Chronicle Herald on July 30, 2018 [and by Canadian Press on August 3, 2018] can be misleading as it combines several issues into one. What we do know is that there is no single magic bullet solution. We also know that an investment of time and money is needed to make things better, and the Town is accountable for being assured that proposed solutions will work. 

Careful consideration of the various issues has led Town Council to the following actions: 

•  The Lunenburg Harbour voluntary water testing program is being independently administrated this summer by the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (Coastal Action), a recognized Lunenburg-based environmental non-profit organization. This year, weekly testing is taking place at the shoreline. The program is intended to give us data that will inform the right solutions – which will be shared with our counterparts in the Federal and Provincial governments as well as the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, who all have a stake in the health of this vibrant working harbour.  

In addition to the weekly waterfront sites, Coastal Action is monitoring five other sites throughout the harbour for bacteria and other indicators a total of five times between June and October. The first two tests have been conducted and results published today: all five sites displayed enterococci bacteria levels below Health Canada’s primary contact guideline for water recreation, including swimming.  

We are not alone in facing issues during warm, dry summer periods as evidenced by water test results that have recently closed designated swimming beaches in the province. (Lunenburg Harbour has no designated swimming areas.) 

For instance, the weekly shoreline enterococci counts have been higher in July than in June and that effluent treatment has been the same, we have to consider that the summer heat and increased boat traffic stirring up sediment in the shallows may be playing a role. But more data is needed. Partial information does not lead to solutions that will work.  

In the interim, Town Council’s commitment over a year ago when we began to voluntarily monitor the harbour water quality was transparency. When information is known to us, we are sharing it publicly.  

•  The Town initiated the Lunenburg Harbour Health Advisory Group, with representation from government, industry, and citizens, held their first meeting on July 25, 2018 and confirmed their mandate as: “…a stand-alone advisory entity facilitated by Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (Coastal Action), for the purposes of protecting the health of Lunenburg Harbour through the identification of threats and development of feasible solutions.”  

First on the group’s agenda is defining what constitutes a “healthy harbour” in a working, commercial harbour such as Lunenburg, so that we know what benchmark we are working towards. 

•  While the Town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant complies with Federal and Provincial treatment requirements, a four-month engineering study is underway by CBCL Ltd. Consulting Engineers to review the 2003 Plant and full sewage system to determine if treatment levels can be further improved. The results will be shared with the public and recommendations considered by Town Council in the coming months. 

The Town of Lunenburg undertook a capital project to reduce the amount of rain and snow melt requiring treatment by separating sanitary and storm sewers throughout the community at a cost of over $3 Million over this past year. With increased storm water separation, however, wastewater is more concentrated when treated.  

Further capital projects are currently scheduled over the next five years. The CBCL engineering study will assist the Town in weighing benefits versus costs and determining how to prioritize that work. 

•  Unrelated to the Harbour water quality but of concern to residents, is Lunenburg’s current $1.1 Million Biofilter construction project to control odour coming from the plant itself.Designed by CBCL with funding assistance from the Federal and Provincial governments, the Biofilter will reduce odours produced during the wastewater treatment process. The filter system works by forcing the Plant’s air through a bed of organic materials including wood chips that absorb and breakdown odour compounds. This is a proven and sustainable technology that is scheduled to be completed by October of this year. 

For more information about Lunenburg Harbour and the ongoing studies, please visit, particularly the public documents shared with citizens and stakeholders on July 4th. 

It is helpful to clarify a question posed in the July 30th Chronicle Herald article about the Province of Nova Scotia’s recently announced investment in several tourism sites across the province, one of them being Lunenburg. The Town’s understanding is that this will be directed towards tourism projects. The funds are being administered by Tourism Nova Scotia in cooperation with Develop Nova Scotia (formerly Waterfront Development). We welcome provincial investment in our Town as a tourism icon. 

We’ve come to appreciate that Lunenburg Harbour’s situation is not unique in Canada or in Nova Scotia as a working waterfront with numerous marine activities. We want to assure citizens and visitors that we arefully committed to continued monitoring, testing, and sharing of the results, in addition to expanding public education and engagement. We are working with our Federal, Provincial, and Municipal counterparts to find the right long-term solutions to this shared responsibility.

Lunenburg Town Council