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2004 Wastewater — Co-winner 1

Town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Population: 2,600

For years, raw sewage had been dumped into the harbour of the Town of Lunenburg. The town's new treatment plant uses a combination of grit separation, biofilter reactor, digester, dissolved air floatation tanks, and ultraviolet light to treat sewage before discharging the cleaned, disinfected water back into the harbour. The sludge produced by the treatment plant is turned into compost at a regional composting facility. With sewage now being diverted and clean, treated effluent flowing back into the harbour, the harbour will naturally clean itself within three to five years. Municipal officials believe that the clean up will play a major role in the future redevelopment of the town's historic waterfront.


The Town of Lunenburg is best known for being the home of the Bluenose, the fastest sailing ship in Canadian history. This historic town-formally established in 1753 as the first British Colonial settlement in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax-places a high priority on water and water quality, as demonstrated by its motto, "Healthy Harbour, Healthy Community."

Over the last decade, the town had initiated several waste management and beautification projects, such as composting, recycling and park rehabilitation. In 1995, after being designated a World Heritage site, the town commissioned a team of international professionals to develop a Community Cultural Plan.

The plan identified a major problem: sewage was still pumped directly into the harbour. Much of the town's economy is based on fisheries and on tourism, and the plan showed how Lunenburg's polluted harbour had become a disincentive to new development, which would undoubtedly affect the future growth and prosperity of the town.


  • Sewage is no longer dumped into harbour and, within three to five years, the harbour will naturally clean itself as a result of this project. Visibility through clouded water has already improved from about one metre (four to five feet) in 2003 to over three metres (10 to twelve feet) in 2004.
  • The town had no sewage treatment in place prior to this project. Although there are no direct financial benefits, the operating costs of the plant will be reduced due to the use of ultraviolet irradiation of effluent, rather than chemical treatment, and the composting of sludge.
  • Quarterly sewer billing will pay for all of the facility's operating costs. Currently, the billing does not fund 100 per cent of the project. The town has built up a small reserve to ensure that the sewage rates do not increase; however, there was a $78,000 shortfall during the 2003-2004 fiscal year.
  • Most of the town's houses and businesses, which had been pouring untreated waste directly into the harbour, are now connected to the sewage treatment system. For example, High Liner Foods Inc., located outside the town in Lunenburg County, entered into an agreement with the town to have its sewage treated, giving an additional benefit to the adjacent municipality.
  • A clean harbour will play a major role in the future development of the town's historic waterfront.

Lessons Learned

  • SET REALISTIC GOALS. The town's long-term goal to construct a sewage treatment facility was met by carefully considering operational, financial and eventual outcomes. Town officials stressed that it was important to be persistent and to use all angles necessary to heighten the importance of the project.
  • COMMUNITY SUPPORT IS KEY. The town kept the entire community informed through meetings and information materials, and worked closely with the business community to ensure compliance with the new use sewer bylaw.
  • NEW TECHNOLOGY: PRO & CON. The two technologies employed had never before been used in combination to treat wastewater. Although the process needs some fine-tuning, it has produced noticeable results much sooner than expected because the town was able to remove sewage and return cleaned water to the same area in the harbour. However, there was little information from other municipalities that the town could rely on to troubleshoot problems and, as a result, the time to commission the plant took longer than expected. The next time this combination of technologies is used in another community, therefore, the work done in Lunenburg will be invaluable.

Partners and Collaboration


  • Town Council
  • Town Manager/Clerk and Finance Department
  • Public Works Department


  • Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program
  • Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour
  • Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Parks Canada
  • Bluenose Atlantic Coastal Action Plan
  • Lunenburg Board of Trade
Page Updated: 21/12/2015