Stratford takes stopgap measures to control sewage lagoon stink issue
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Stratford Mayor David Dunphy shows off one of the town's new Blue Frog units at the sewage lagoon.
The Town of Stratford is finally taking steps to deal with the annual stench from its sewage treatment lagoon. And many residents are saying it’s about time. The malodorous smell from the lagoon, especially in the summer when the rising temperatures turn the outdoor facility into a hellish cesspool, has driven nearby residents and business owners to the brink of despair for years.
Pleas to council finally have paid dividends, and city fathers, led by Mayor David Dunphy, decided the time for delays and negotiations is over and the time for action is finally here.
The $1.5-million Blue Frog system will see a variety of floating units form virtual tanks that act to create a system that is heralded as practically identical to a modern waste treatment plant.
The blue frogs are designed to work in cold winters with ice cover, require no special training for staff and do not have a high demand for electricity. It all sounds too good to be true.
Blue frogs are an expensive stopgap measure, for this is what this interim solution must be. The prospect of these 19 devices becoming a permanent solution to the town’s woes would be a vast mistake. The estimated cost is a huge temporary expense but something had to be done.
The idea of pumping town sewage via pipeline under the Hillsborough Bridge to the Charlottetown sewage treatment facility has lots of merit if the city’s facility is able to handle it. Stratford would be rid of the lagoon eyesore and the city would generate considerable revenue.
Charlottetown is spending millions to separate its water and sewer systems — so rainfall will be diverted into the river and sewage into the treatment facility. When both flowed through one pipe and all into the treatment system, overflows occurred every time there was a heavy rainfall with raw pollution flowing into the river, shutting down oyster leases, fishing, swimming and most other recreational pursuits.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but what were municipal and provincial officials thinking when the decision was made back in 1980 to build the lagoon on the waterfront across the Hillsborough River from Charlottetown? Of course back then, sewage treatment was not a priority item. The idea was to give sewage some rudimentary treatment and then dump or pump it into the nearby waterfront and let nature’s tidal action flush away all the problems into the bay, the strait and eventually to the sea.
Back some 35 years ago there was a fractured municipal conglomeration in what is now present- day Stratford. There was obviously co-operation on fire protection and other issues but there had to be differences of opinion among other projects between the communities of Southport, Bunbury, Crossroads, Keppoch, Kinlock, Battery Point and others. A united front might have halted this present-day eyesore. And who would have guessed that Stratford would grow so rapidly into the province’s third-largest municipality? The lagoon was built for a community of 1,750 and today we have a town approaching 8,000 residents.
The showcase of any community should be its waterfront which includes green space, parks, walking trails — a peaceful, quiet area for families, pet owners, nature lovers and others. Who would want to do anything like that in the area to the right of the Hillsborough Bridge coming into Stratford across the river today?
The town is talking five to 10 years of this blue frog system before it turns its financial attention to a long-term, permanent solution. That solution today is going to mean $10 million or more and the total seems to have scared council away from making the hard and expensive decision today. A final solution will be much more expensive in 10 years.
If Stratford doesn’t want or can’t send its sewage via pipeline or some other safe means across to Charlottetown, it must find some other location far away from its waterfront to build a sewage treatment facility — out of sight, out of mind and out of range of olfactory glands.