Lunenburg residents kick up stink as council fails to curb sewage stench

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Lunenburg residents kick up stink as council fails to curb sewage stench

The strong smell coming from the Lunenburg wastewater treatment plant 900 metres from Ronald Thurlow's home on Nova Scotia's south shore drives him and his wife, Sharon, inside every summer. 

Just as the weather gets warmer and people are spending more time outside, Sharon and Ronald are going in the opposite direction.

"It doesn't matter which way the wind is blowing around here, you're going to get the smell from that plant. You've got to close up the house and get in off the deck or wherever you are outside. You can't stay out," he said.

And it doesn't look like things are getting any better, despite their efforts to get the town to fix the odour problem. 

"Each year it seems to be getting worse, especially in the summertime when it's sultry-like. It seems like that's when it's the worst. And it goes all through the town, not just here — it's all over."

Too expensive?

In one afternoon last summer, he got 15 people to sign a petition. All of them went with him to the council meeting that night to air their concerns. But Thurlow feels their collective voice went unheard.

"They talked about it but they didn't seem to want to do too much. They say it's too costly," said Thurlow. 

Council did vote to commission an engineering firm to design a biofilter system that they hoped would help fix the problem. But construction of the entire system, estimated to cost $770,000, was not included in last year's budget. It was left for the council elected in the fall to see it through.

But odour control and wastewater treatment plant upgrades are not in this year's draft budget. 

Thurlow's neighbour, Marc Glassman, said federal funding was made available to communities specifically for wastewater infrastructure and should be used for those improvements.

"I agree that there is a need in terms of fixing up water mains and sewage lines. That is a priority that affects certain people, especially in this area. But the smell is something that affects the entire town," said Glassman.

No funding request for odour control

The federal government has allocated $5 billion over five years for water and wastewater projects. The provincial budget tabled Thursday included $40 million for clean water and wastewater infrastructure improvements. 

Lunenburg council did not include the odour control project in its application for funding last year. 

Feeling frustrated and trapped in his own home, Thurlow applied for a property tax reassessment and was successful. 

"I had a substantial amount taken off my taxes ... so I was quite happy over that," he said.  

Mayor Rachel Bailey did not return repeated calls and emails from CBC News. 

In the meantime, Thurlow and Glassman are not ready to give up. They both believe there's power in the people and plan to continue to take their concerns up with the town. 

"It's got to be in a positive way. It can't be negative," Glassman said.

"I think our town council are honourable people and they will listen if you present a situation truthfully and realistically."