Halifax Harbour Solutions
For two and a half centuries prior to this project, raw sewage was discharged untreated directly into Halifax Harbour. The harbour waters have been the recipient of approximately 200 million litres of untreated raw sewage every day, enough to fill 25 Olympic-size swimming pools. Shellfish harvesting from the harbour and swimming within the harbour have been prohibited for health reasons.
The historic settlements of Halifax and Dartmouth were built with no thought to sewage treatment as a means of waste disposal. Throughout the 19th century, sewers were designed as a single system, with no separation between sanitary sewers, which carried domestic human waste, and stormwater drainage systems. The combined sewers simply emptied into the harbour from dozens of outfalls at the bottom of each street that met the waterfront.
By the mid-20th century, it was clear that the system was not environmentally sustainable. Millions of litres of sewage were dumped into the harbour daily, consisting not only of simple human waste, but of pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, fertilizers, and a host of other harmful material.
Sewage treatment plants were proposed for both Halifax and Dartmouth beginning in the 1970s, however, the separate municipalities were never able to reach a consensus for system design and construction. That decade saw the Halifax Regional Water Commission begin to charge its customers a pollution surcharge which was intended to fund such a system. Meanwhile a host of different provincial and federal governments came and went and overall funding was never finalized. It was only following municipal amalgamation which saw the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth dissolved and merged with all municipalities in Halifax County to form the Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996 that the sewage treatment issue gained necessary traction. It was only after the creation of the Halifax Regional Municipality that the project was moved beyond the planning stage.
Under the Harbour Solutions Project, a treatment system has been under construction since the early 2000s with three plants being built (one in downtown Halifax, one in downtown Dartmouth, and one in Herring Cove on the southwest side of the harbour) as well as extensive collector piping to close all sewage outfalls into the harbour and redirect sewage into the treatment plants. Total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately CA$333 million. On February 11, 2008, the treatment facility in downtown Halifax officially commenced operation. The Dartmouth plant came online on July 10, 2008 and the Herring Cove plant was expected to open in late fall 2008.
The Halifax Regional Municipality announced on July 9, 2008 that the harbour beaches, Black Rock Beach at Point Pleasant Park and the beach at Dingle Park will re-open to swimming on August 2, 2008. Fecal coliform bacteria levels at these locations are either undetectable or at safe levels for swimming. Eleven lifeguards will patrol the beaches. The improved water quality in Halifax Harbour during the summer of 2008 is a direct result of the newly operating Halifax and Dartmouth sewage plants. The clarity of the water improved to the point where the municipal government hired commercial divers to remove debris from the floor of the harbour along the popular boardwalk in the Historic Properties; prior to this summer, the debris was seldom visible due to the opaque water as a result of the untreated sewage.
However repeated breakdowns of the system in 2008 resulted in regular beach closures again and complaints about foul odours and sewage filled basements. A massive failure of the central plant in January 2009 caused raw sewage to again be poured into the Harbour.
The breakdown had brought criticism from the federal government and the public, and city officials promised to get the plant back online by Spring 2010. On June 25, 2010, the Halifax Wastewater Treatment Plant was returned to full operation, and has been announced that Black Rock Beach and Dingle Park Beach will be safe for swimming again.
- Auld, Alison (2008-07-28). "Crud-free harbour beckons swimmers". Halifax Chronicle-Herald, from The Canadian Press wire service. pp. A1 – A2. Retrieved 2008-07-29.[dead link]
- Bousquet, Tim (2007-03-08). "Harbour Solutions stinks". The Coast. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
- Federal-Provincial Environmental Assessment Review Panel for the Halifax-Dartmouth Metropolitan Wastewater Management System (1993), Halifax Harbour Cleanup Project (PDF), Federal Environment Assessment Review Office, Publications, p. 56
- "Lifeguards to watch over harbour beaches next month" (NEWS ARTICLE). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- *"Sewage treament Plant Flooded" CBC Radio News January 19, 2009
- *"Halifax sewage treatment plant back online" CBC News June 25, 2010