The Greater MonctonSewage Treatment Plant discharges the entire treated effluent from the three municipalities of Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe – population of 120,000. Since its construction in 1992, the plant has provided what it describes as “advanced” primary effluent treatment. Canada is the last country in the developing world (OECD) to require a mandatory secondary degree treatment of sewage discharges (removal of bacteria, to meet the national guidelines for recreational usage). The national regulation was adopted only in 2009 and will come into effect by the year 2020.
During a ten-year period, Riverkeeper fought unsuccessfully to have the Sewage Commission unveil its plans to upgrade the plant to secondary treatment. In 2011, the Commission became the focus of an extensive audit and investigation by the Office of the New Brunswick Ombudsman, which determined that it was operating outside of its mandate by refusing oversight by the province, local municipalities (owners) and the public. The Commission’s Chairman, in office since 1985 was forced to resign amid accusations of mismanagement. Following a rigorous governance restructure, the Commission finally announced in 2013 its plans to upgrade the plant to secondary treatment, a $65 million project scheduled to be completed by 2018.
In 2013 and 2014, Riverkeeper managed to broker an “Effluent Hold Back Program” with the Sewage Commission, a measure to withhold discharging the plant’s effluent during a three-hour period, prior to the arrival of the tidal bore, to allow surfing in the river. The measure is a temporary compromise until secondary treatment is offered in 2018. A water quality sampling program to be implemented by Riverkeeper in partnership with the surfing community is set to be implemented in 2014.