— TC Media photo
According to the Town of Gander, the sewage treatment plant on Magee Road is at its capacity, which is causing a foul smell to hover around the neighborhood.
It’s a fact that has some residents kicking up a stink of their own. Jim Lidstone said he’s tired of the looming stench keeping him from enjoying his property on McGrath Place. The issue has been ongoing for years, he said, and it’s time for the problem to be fixed because of health concerns and the intolerable smell of raw sewage in the neighbourhood.
“The biggest issue for most people is that this is nothing new,” said Lidstone. “The system is (over capacity) here and they’ve allowed too much development for the system that’s there.”
According to Lidstone, the smell first became an issue in 2011 and worsened in 2012.
“They did an update of the system with a major cleanout of the two tanks, and that happened towards the end of 2012. It was one of the nicest summers we’ve had in years, but we couldn’t go outside our doors most days. It was hot in the night, but you had to keep the windows closed because the smell was coming in.”
It was that year a plan for a new system was put in place, and the smell seemed to fade the following summer, said Lidstone.
“2013 was pretty good. There weren’t many issues at all. This year, the first nice summer days we had was the May 24th weekend, and we couldn’t go outside our door because the smell was so bad. The smell is back, and myself and my neighbours have been talking about it, calling the town and writing councillors. We’re not going to wait until the middle of summer to make complaints, so we’re complaining now.”
While those complaints have been placed to the Town, frustration is building with the response.
“We’re getting the same answers,” said Lidstone. “They’re telling us they know it’s (over capacity) and there’s a new plant coming down the road, which if all goes really well it will be two years. I’m thinking it’s more like three to four years. We were told in 2012 that’s it going to be a five-year plan, but now some of the councillors have been saying the government have changed their plans.
“They should have hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.”
Part of that frustration, Lidstone said, is that it’s not a new issue. He said he would like to see town council have more concrete answers for a solution to the smelly problem.
Nancy Healey-Dove has picked up the scent as well, and she’s fed up with the foul odour coming from the plant on Magee Road.
“I live not far for the sewage treatment plant, and the smell is absolutely disgusting. It’s raw sewage,” said Healey-Dove. “You can’t open your windows, you can’t put clothes out on the line on a nice summer day because it will smell. I’m a runner and I can’t even go past the area because it reeks. You can’t even go and enjoy your garden that you’re paying a fortune for in taxes.”
There’s another big consideration and concern within the issue, said Healey.
“They’re planning on putting a school right next to it. I’m not sure how good it is for the environment or healthwise. This is what we’re breathing in. This is what our kids are breathing in. There’s a playground down there, and there’s a basketball court right next to it. Sewage is basic town infrastructure and if you can’t support sewage, then you’re not a town. It should all be in place before you start expanding the town.”
The situation has prompted the Gander resident to take further action, with plans to contact Kevin O’Brien, MHA for Gander, and Steve Kent, minister of municipal affairs.
Wayne Lorenzen, chair of the waste water steering committee, said he understands the frustrations of residents, and agreed the problem began a few years back when it was decided a new sewage treatment plant was needed in order to keep up with Gander’s expansion.
“The intent of the previous town council was to put in a temporary solution on the existing plant because it was known there was capacity issue long before now,” said Lorenzen. “The previous council decided to build a temporary $2-million tank on the existing structure on Magee Road. We had assurances at the time that there was ways of dealing with the smell when the new council came in. So we decided to scrap that spending because it was basically throwing away $2 million. It was going to be disposable, basically, so we decided to take taxpayers’ money and move forward with a new sewage treatment plant.”
According to Lorenzen, the wheels were set in motion for that project in September of last year. A consultant was hired, and it was suggested that a lagoon-based system would be the best route to take for Gander’s new sewage treatment plant. Those plans are now delayed because of the provincial government’s interest in the project.
“They are a major funder of this project, let’s face it,” said Lorenzen of the 70 per cent the provincial government will cover. “We received a letter back in May from Steve Kent, and they’re not satisfied with the direction we were going with the lagoon-based system. They feel if they’re investing the dollars, then they want a say in how we move forward. This is a massive project, with $15- to 20-million cost for the type of plant that we need.”
According to Lorenzen, the key parts of the project will be for the new plant to handle any kind of future expansion of Gander, and that it will be far enough away from town that smell won’t be an issue if it existed.