Wastewater discharge prompts warning not to swim in Charlottetown harbour

·2 min read
An official with the Charlottetown Water and Sewer Utility says people should avoid contact with the water until Wednesday as a precaution. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
An official with the Charlottetown Water and Sewer Utility says people should avoid contact with the water until Wednesday as a precaution. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

People are being asked not to swim around Charlottetown's harbour after 6,000 cubic metres of wastewater was released while crews were doing emergency repairs Sunday.

The discharge took place for about 5½ hours while the repairs were happening.

The amount of wastewater could fill 2½ Olympic-size swimming pools, although officials said that's not much compared to the volume of water already in the harbour and that it's been quickly diluted.

Still, the city has warned people to avoid contact with the water until Wednesday as a precaution.

"We had a contractor who accidentally hit a sewer force main and poked a hole in the sewer force main so we needed to make repairs," said Richard MacEwen, manager of Charlottetown Water and Sewer Utility.

"We had to stop flow in that pipe, and it's one of the main pipes that sends sewer to the wastewater treatment plant. We do have some storage at our sewer lift stations that feed into that pipe. But once that storage is exceeded, then the water, unfortunately, has no other place to go but out into the harbour."

The city said that those who do come into contact with the water should make sure to wash their hands before they eat or drink.

MacEwen said the wastewater is distributed to the harbour in general, although more so around the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

He said the incident is under review by the city.

"We've done lots of work in the city to really minimize the risk," MacEwen said.

"It could occur during the springtime when we have a heavy rainfall combined with a snowfall event. There is still a risk for us to discharge raw wastewater into the harbour during those events. But it really has become a very rare occurrence."

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