Some areas around Stratford have been closed to commercial fishermen due to more flow than usual from the town’s sewage lagoon.
The current closure followed what the town calls “heavier than normal rains’’ over a short period of time that have literally saturated the ground.
Jeremy Crosby, deputy chief administrative officer and director of infrastructure with the town, said the water gets into the manholes and into the pipes from people’s basements that are connected to the municipal system.
“Those flows go to the plant, and they are higher than normal,’’ Crosby said Monday. “So, we did have some effluent quality that was higher than we normally would.’’
Stratford is obligated through a conditional management plan to report any anomalies in its wastewater system to the Canadian Food Inspection (CFIA), Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the province under what is called the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program.
Environment Canada tests water quality and CFIA tests shellfish meat quality.
If there are issues with water quality, Environment Canada asks DFO to close a shellfish harvesting area. If there are shellfish meat issues, CFIA asks DFO to close. DFO is the department that physically posts shellfish closure signs.
Tammy Coughlin of Conway, who fishes oysters in the Stratford area with her husband, Randy, said the closure affects up to 50 fishermen.
“It’s the second time this spring that they’ve (closed) it,’’ Coughlin said. “It affects us, and this is a really bad year for us, too. It just makes it harder. The stocks are down and the quality isn’t there and the price has been the same for the (last several years).’’
Coughlin said the flow issue has been a problem for years.
“We’re getting frustrated, especially this year, and somebody has to step up and say enough is enough. It’s time to really put the boot down.’’
Coughlin said she and her husband fish out of the Rustico area when the Charlottetown harbour is off limits.
Crosby said water samples taken lately have all come back good.
“We’re quite confident everything is returning to normal for us,’’ Crosby said. “However, they may leave that closure in place for a few days (to be) confident the product the fishermen are going to take out of the water is safe for consumption. It’s all about the safety of the food.’’
Crosby said the town has also taken other steps to reduce the flow into its manholes.
He added that even if Stratford ends up decommissioning its lagoon and pumping its wastewater over to Charlottetown there will still be potential for effluent to creep into the harbour.
“We’re doing everything we can to monitor these things and prevent them when we can but, unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t always co-operate the way we want her to.’’