Developer of Fall River seniors' complex to review water study following concerns from neighbours

·3 min read
This graphic shows the approximate locations of the wastewater outfall pipe planned for the new development and the intake pipe that supplies the homes on Thomas Drive. (CBC News Graphics - image credit)
This graphic shows the approximate locations of the wastewater outfall pipe planned for the new development and the intake pipe that supplies the homes on Thomas Drive. (CBC News Graphics - image credit)

The developer of a senior living complex planned for Fall River, N.S., will review a study it conducted for the project's new sewage treatment plant amid concerns from residents about their drinking water, Nova Scotia's Environment Department says.

The department ordered the review after residents of Thomas Drive told CBC they weren't informed about the planned outfall into Thomas Lake, from which 11 homes on the street draw drinking water through a small filtration system.

The study for the planned 55-plus complex, known as Carr Farm, looked at how Thomas Lake is used. It said, "some households could possibly draw from the lake but the likelihood is low."

In an emailed statement, the department said it has "heard the concerns" from nearby residents about the project's proposed sewage treatment system which it approved in 2020.

The planned "age-in-place campus," which includes four apartment buildings and a long-term care facility, is expected to be built at 1109 Fall River Rd. Wastewater from its on-site treatment facility would be piped underground to the middle of Lake Thomas.

Halifax Regional Municipality
Halifax Regional Municipality

"The water study for Lake Thomas did not identify any issues, but it also did not specifically mention that particular intake, which is about 200 metres from the sewage treatment plant's outfall," the statement said.

"The developer is being asked to complete a due diligence review to ensure it has considered the outfall and that the findings remain the same."

Environment officials said Vision 7 Developments has agreed to conduct the review but a timeline has not been provided. "The result of the review will determine if any additional steps are required."

In an email to CBC News, the developer said the review is underway and should be completed shortly.

'A divide and conquer situation'

Thomas Lake is part of the Shubenacadie watershed that links the Halifax harbour with the Minas Basin via Shubenacadie River. The system is stewarded by the Shubenacadie Watershed Environmental Protection Society (SWEPS), a community-based non-profit.

SWEPS chair Tom Mills said public relations efforts around the Carr Farm project have been "extremely poor."

"Right now, it's more like a divide and conquer situation," he said. "You can go to this body [and] you get an approval, then you go to that body and, 'Oh no, you can't ask that question.' "

Fall River residents obtained hundreds of pages of documents about the project through an access to information request in April, citing concerns about the sewage treatment plant.

One of their main concerns was whether the additional phosphorus added to the lake would be in line with municipal bylaws. The Halifax Regional Municipality did not immediately respond to questions about the bylaw.

Demands for 'holistic' approach

The current system of managing the watershed, in which responsibilities are divided between municipal and provincial governments, results in inconsistent communication between governments and with the public, Mills said.

In a letter to Environment Minister Tim Halman last year, Mills called for integrated water management in the Shubenacadie watershed.

He said this "holistic" approach would bring everyone together to share information about the watershed.

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