Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.

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400 Years of Raw Sewage Forces Fishing Ban

by Michael McDonald, Times Colonist, Victoria. June 5, 2002

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. - The federal Fisheries Department decided Tuesday to ban all fishing in the St. John's, Newfoundland harbour, some 400 years after residents first started dumping raw sewage into the water.

The Department said the ban, the first of its kind for St. John's, was needed because a new study shows fish are so contaminated with bacteria that people could get sick from eating or touching them.

Little wonder, considering the city dumps about 120-million litres of untreated sewage and storm runoff into the harbour on a daily basis.

As a result, the harbour has long been regarded as one of the country's most polluted bodies of water.

"Even handling the fish would make you sick", said Beni Malone, co-executive director of the St. John's Harbour Atlantic Coastal Action Program. "Eating it? I wouldn't recommend it."

It's unclear why a similar study wasn't done in the past, said Gary Brocklehurst, the department's chief of resourc allocation in Newfoundland.

"If we didn't close (the harbour to fishing) and something happened, then the question would be: Well, you knew about it and you didn't close it?" Brocklehurst said.

Gushing from an underwater pipe, the steady flow of foul0smelling waste water often creates a brown, roiling circle at the east end of the harbour, which local residents refer to as "the bubble."

Gulls frequent the burbling discharge, which often prompts visitors to ask embarrassing questions about the apparent feeding frenzy. To avoid those questions, the city routinely shunts the outflow to another pipe when cruise ships arrive in port.

In 1997, an underwater scanner was used to draft a distrubing picture of a huge mound of toxic sludge sitting in one corner of the harbour.

The city's mayor, Andy Wells, has described the historic harbour as a "shame and a disgrace."

Still, people have been known to fish there - Malone says he has pictures to provit it because few in St. John's would believe such a statement - and recent reports suggest some fishermen have been spotted storing live lobsters in underwater cages.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said federal funds should be made available for a harbour cleanup in Halifax. That means there could be funding for a cleanup in St. John's.

Mayor Andy Wells has described the historic harbour as a "shame and a disgrace."



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