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Published On: Fri, May 4th, 2018

Raw Sewage Released into Halifax Harbour Following MacKay Bridge Break-in

An unknown quantity of raw sewage was released into the Halifax Harbour on Saturday, following a break-in at the MacKay Bridge.

The Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB) confirmed via a spokesperson that on Saturday morning at 3:40 a.m. there was an outage of power on the bridge, as the security cameras and intrusion alarms both indicated there was a person on the MacKay Bridge catwalk.

It appears that the person in question was able to gain access to an electrical panel and subsequently turn off breakers which affected the navigational lights and cameras on the bridge.

An electric danger sign may mean “costs ahead”
photo/public domain

The incident at the A. Murray MacKay Bridge known locally as “the new bridge”, is being investigated by the Halifax Regional Police. Alison MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Police Department said that they are taking the breach of security “very seriously.”

We have increased security of the bridges in recent years with fencing, cameras and lighting,” MacDonald said.

“We are reviewing all security and implementing immediate and longer-term measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Halifax Water confirmed that one of their repeaters was impacted as a direct result of the power outage. Despite power being restored by 7:30 a.m., some four hours after the break-in, the effect on the repeater caused raw sewage to be released into Halifax harbour.

A spokesperson for the department, James Campbell said that the repeater connected five pumping stations across the harbour.

Nova Scotia’s department of environment said that the release occurred at the Ferguson Street, King Street, Park Avenue, Lyle Street and Melva Street stations.

The Dartmouth plant is believed to have automatically shut its inlet gates, preventing all sewage coming from the four pumping stations from entering the Dartmouth plant to be treated. As a result, the raw sewage was pushed into a sewage overflow pipe that flows into Halifax harbour.

James Campbell said “The loss of communications information to the pumping stations resulted in screened overflows into the harbour through those pumping stations,”

This is not the first time that a power outage has caused a shutdown. On January 14, 2009, a similar power outage caused a total shutdown of the Halifax sewage plant.

James Campbell did say that a similar release could have occurred during a period of heavy rain. Raw sewage is shunted into the harbour during periods of heavy rain and on many occasions the system has been overwhelmed.

The latest power outage did not cause a total shutdown, showing lessons have been learned from the 2009 shutdown. It remains to be seen if further lessons can be drawn in the security and failure to prevent raw sewage being pumped into the Halifax Habour.

Author: Jacob Maslow

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