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Signs of life replace raw sewage in Saint John waterway

Caroline Floyd

Friday, April 1, 2016, 1:05 PM - The polluted waters of Saint John, N.B. are finally showing signs of life again.

Saint John Harbour was the destination for the city's raw sewage for more than 150 years. From the mid-1800s onward, drainage outfalls pumped untreated waste into the city's creeks and streams on its way to the harbour, letting open troughs of human waste and unsanitary debris run through the city.

Marsh Creek, one of the city's largest watersheds, was the target of some 50 such outflow pipes, and, for decades, a stench rose from the water that was the recipient of whatever went into thousands of Saint John toilets.

Saint John's cleanup efforts began in 2010, at a time when 16,000 m3 of untreated waste water sloshed into habour every day. The project cost almost $100 million and took a decade of planning to enact, but, since its completion in 2014, the benefits to the waterways have been trickling in. A report from the Atlantic Coastal Action Program Saint John (ACAP Saint John) in 2014 found a 95 to 99 per cent decrease in the amounts faecal bacteria from just the year before.

And now, there's even better news from the troubled Marsh Creek, as signs of life have returned to the waters. Gerry Webster, who works in an office overlooking the creek, told CTV News, "Change has been incredible. Wildlife has returned here. We don't get any foul odors of any sort. The river looks to be clean, which it never did before. It was pretty bad."

Graeme Stewart Robertson of ACAP Saint John says the chemical changes in the water have allowed long-missing species to return to the area, as well. Speaking to CTV News, he said Marsh Creek has recently seen the return of the alewife species of herring - known as gaspereau in Atlantic Canada.

This afternoon we led WWF-Canada & selected guests on a special kayak tour of our harbour to celebrate the first...

Posted by ACAP Saint John on Saturday, September 26, 2015

Federal safety guidelines require faecal bacteria counts of 200/100 ml or less to be considered safe for human contact. An untouchable mire for generations, groups are now considering the Marsh Creek area for outdoor recreation opportunities.

Sources: CTV News | CBC News | ACAP Saint John | City of Saint John |

Watch: One New Brunswick resident's radical approach to conservation

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