You can almost drink the effluent in North Rustico
Les Standen says there’s a reason North Rustico’s effluent – or treated wastewater – is famous across Canada.
“That’s high quality effluent; you would think it was drinking water,” says Standen, who has chaired the town's water and sewer committee for 14 years. “There isn’t a place on the east coast with the quality effluent we have.”
It wasn’t always this way. The previous wastewater plant was at capacity and couldn’t keep up with demand.
“We couldn’t issue any more building permits. We had to do something so we could expand and grow as a community, but we also had to do it from an elevation standpoint,” he explained.
Then, in December 2010, a storm surge left about 100 of the town’s residents without water and sewer. The town’s old, vulnerable pumping station located on the harbourfront shut down from the loss of power.
“Higher sea levels and tidal surges are an unfortunate reality,” Standen said. “The problem wasn’t going to go away.”
With the provincial and federal government providing two-thirds of the funding, North Rustico built a new water treatment plant in 2011. Then in 2014, they built a $2.7 million state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant on one of the highest lots in town. The two water and wastewater projects together cost a total of $4 million.
“We could not afford water and sewer without government assistance; it’s just too small a community ,” Standen said. “We took a negative situation and made it a catalyst for change.”
“When it comes to vital services like sewer and water you have to protect the community."
Standen, a retired Ontario banker, moved to North Rustico with his wife after falling in love with the place on vacation in 2000. He’s spent most of the years since moving to the Island on water and sewer issues.
The community now has a long-range plan for infrastructure that will allow it to continue to grow and be serviced properly.
As for the wastewater plant, it takes flow from 300 buildings and turns it into crystal clear effluent, some of the cleanest on the east coast, before it flows back into Rustico Harbour. It could be said that it is a crown jewel of the community – at least Standen thinks so.
“We’re known across Canada for this plant,” he said. “It just shows what can be accomplished when government and communities cooperate and collaborate to make big things happen.”