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Algae bloom causes concern

CHRIS LOWREY
SAND BAY April 8, 2020
Last October, residents of Sand Bay in Clarendon started raising concerns about one of their neighbours installing a septic system in close proximity to the public beach.
Now, as the ice retreats, residents have taken note of a strange patch of algae that has emerged and are pointing to the septic tank as the reason for the algae bloom.
Algae blooms are the rapid increase of algae in a water system. It can be causes by high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that make it into the river via fertilizer runoff of septic discharge.
As a result of the increase of the nutrients, algae grows extremely quickly and it can absorb so much of the oxygen in the water that other organisms could suffer.
Now, residents are again raising concerns again and wondering if they have any recourse. They’ve started a GoFundMe page that has already garnered more than $10,000.
Construction on the septic system started in October of last year. Residents noticed a backhoe and other construction equipment roll down the public beach and start digging a trench and laying a pipe.
When residents found out it was a septic tank, they started to appeal to their local government.
Last October, Clarendon Director General Patricia Hobbs said the septic tank was above board as all necessary permits had been obtained by the homeowner.
“The request for authorization was sent to the Ministry of Natural Resources who had to authorize the system to be put in,” Hobbs said at the time. “So, all that authorization was put in place and the permit was given.”
The septic system in question is called a BioNest, which is specifically designed to fit in a small area. According to the BioNest website, the system uses bacteria and non-biodegradable media to filter waste before it’s sent into the river.
According to the website, the BioNest can achieve a filtration level of 4 mg/L of organic pollution and 3 mg/L of suspended solids, coming in well below the provincial minimum of 15 mg/L.
But residents have been wondering if a certain level of flow needs to be achieved for the system to work effectively.
Since Sand Bay is effectively a closed bay, the water flow may not be high enough to move the discharge away from the beach.
“There’s almost no flow in the water,” said Nicholas Deeble, a member of the Sand Bay Volunteer Executive Committee.
“We feel disappointed and let down,” he said. “Throughout this whole process, all we’ve wanted is for someone to say ‘There is a problem here.’”
Now, Deeble says he hopes that an algae bloom in near freezing water is enough of a warning sign that there may be a problem.
Residents have tried to obtain copies of the permits issued to the homeowner but have not been able to get their hands on it.
As a result, it’s not clear what standards were met in order to go ahead with the project or what tests were done on the water to measure things like flow rate and its impact on the septic system’s effectiveness.
Residents approached both the municipality of Clarendon as well as the MRC Pontiac, and when it was clear nothing could be done at the municipal level, they approach both Pontiac Liberal MNA André Fortin and Pontiac Liberal MP Will Amos.
But they still haven’t received answers.
The main concerns of residents are the health and safety of their community and the preservation of one of its social hubs.
“This is a pretty popular place in Clarendon and the Pontiac,” Deeble said. “If all of a sudden there’s a layer of green slime floating on this water, that’s a huge impact to the community.”
So, residents are pursuing all of their options, including using the money raised through GoFundMe to hire a lawyer who can advocate their case.
While residents are vowing to keep up the fight, there is at least some disappointment that they weren’t listened to in the first place.
“I just feel very sad that all the concerns we raised were ignored,” Deeble said. “And now we’re here and we’re seeing that the things we thought were going to happen are starting.”

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