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Timeline - From 1749 to 2010

Years of planning have gone into the Harbour Solutions project. Here’s a look at the history of efforts to clean up Halifax Harbour.

1749 to 1759 Halifax and Dartmouth are founded and the area grows as a military and shipping port.
Early 1800s A bylaw is introduced to prohibit direct discharge of ‘slops’ to city streets.
Late 1880s to early 1900s Combined sewers are constructed to service some areas.
1924 Scientific studies identify pollution discharges to the harbour in the waterfront area from the Narrows to the Ocean Terminals on the Halifax side of the harbour and from Eastern Passage to the Narrows on the Dartmouth side. Thirteen sewers are discharging raw sewage to the harbour.
1956 Halifax County stipulates that sewage to be discharged to Bedford Basin should be treated to protect the Basin water quality. A treatment plant at Mill Cove is recommended to treat Bedford sewage.
1960 Halifax County recommends that sewage from the Sackville area be collected and also treated in a treatment facility at Mill Cove. The provincial government requires complete treatment of any discharges to Bedford Basin. The County begins design of a secondary facility for Mill Cove.
1969 The city of Dartmouth installs a number of relief sewers and overflow devices to alleviate flooding problems, and recommends the construction of five sewage treatment plants for the city sewage, some to discharge to freshwater lakes. The provincial government stipulates tertiary treatment for any sewage discharges to fresh water lakes, and the city reconsiders its plan in conjunction with Halifax County, which was evaluating treatment options for the Eastern Passage/Cole Harbour areas. A secondary treatment facility is recommended for Eastern Passage. The City of Halifax significantly expands its boundaries and commissions a study to evaluate sewage treatment requirements. A secondary treatment plant to be located at Purcell’s
Cove is recommended.
1971 A secondary treatment plant at Mill Cove is constructed. The Metropolitan Area Planning Committee considers a regional treatment facility and proposes a single, regional facility at “Hen and Chickens”, a shoal off Point Pleasant Park. The
Committee also identifies a need for additional harbour studies to establish the degree of treatment required and to evaluate the impacts of sewage discharges on water quality.
1973 The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (MAPC) is established as a corporate body pursuant to the Planning Act of Nova Scotia. MAPC includes the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Chief Magistrates of the four municipalities and one additional elected representative appointed by each municipality.
The mandate of MAPC is to advise the Minister of Municipal Affairs; to prepare and revise the Regional development plan; to facilitate consultation; to assess opportunities for collective action, and to provide input to long range planning activities.
1974 A secondary treatment plant is constructed at Eastern Passage.
1977 The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission commissions another study on regional treatment options. The adverse impacts of raw sewage discharges to the harbour are documented. A regional primary treatment plant is recommended with an
outfall to the ocean, in a location with general offshore drift.
1978 A sludge management study determines that significant volumes of sewage sludge are being discharged to the harbour daily and recommends more economical and environmentally acceptable sludge disposal options. A separate study reveals that large volumes of ‘special waste’ are also being discharged to the harbour on a regular basis.
1981 Serious inflow and infiltration problems are identified in the sewer systems in the county of Halifax. The lack of a domestic waste pollution control policy is identified as a major constraint to development in the cities of Dartmouth and Halifax and in Halifax County.
1984 MAPC commissions a three-phase study to assess conditions in
Halifax Harbour, to identify and fill data gaps, and to assemble
the data necessary to design a regional sewage treatment facility.
1985 Phase 1 of the MAPC study is undertaken to review all pertinent data related to physical oceanography, water quality, and sewage loading to the harbour. A water quality survey shows high fecal coliforms in the harbour, and acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen, except near sewage outfalls.
1986 Phase 2 of the MAPC study is completed with the development of a water quality model and field-testing of the model. Modeling studies show that there will be increased problems in the harbour if no action is taken regarding the discharge of raw sewage.
1987 Based on the predictions of the model developed in Phase 2 of the MAPC study, the Eastern Passage treatment plant is downgraded to a primary level of treatment. Phase 3 of the study is completed and a single, regional primary sewage treatment plant is recommended at Sandwich Point.
1988 The four municipalities agree in principle with the concept of a single, regional sewage treatment plant and also agree that an assessment of the environmental impacts of the effluent from the proposed plant on the Herring Cove fishery must be conducted.
The Halifax Harbour Cleanup Review Committee is
established to review public concerns with the Sandwich Point site. The Canada-Nova Scotia Subsidiary Agreement on Halifax-Dartmouth Metropolitan Area Development is signed, committing funds to the construction of a regional sewage treatment facility incorporating an oil-from-sludge plant.
1989 The Halifax Harbour Task Force is commissioned to develop environmental quality guidelines and objectives for uses of Halifax Harbour. Halifax Harbour Cleanup Inc. is established to undertake all activities related to the pre-design, design and construction of the regional sewage treatment facility. A sludge lagoon is constructed at the Aerotech Industrial Park and sewage sludge from the existing treatment plants in Halifax County is disposed of there.
1990 Halifax Harbour Task Force (HHTF) recommends a containment approach to sewage management and suggests that the outfall from any regional plant be located in the Inner Harbour. The HHTF documents significant public concerns with the recommended Sandwich Point site and with the oilfrom- sludge technology. The HHTF recommends a single, regional treatment facility, and puts forth siting criteria to be used in the selection of the site for the facility. The Project to construct a regional sewage treatment facility is referred to a joint federal/provincial environmental assessment panel. The Panel is given specific instructions to evaluate environmental and socio-economic aspects of the construction and operation of a primary sewage treatment facility to be located on an artificial island in Ives Cove off McNab’s Island.
1991 to 1993 The Project Proponent, Halifax Harbour Cleanup Inc.
(HHCI) documents the existing conditions, predicted project impacts, and mitigation measures associated with project construction and operation.
1992 HHCI submits its Environmental Impact assessment reports
to the EA Panel.
1993 The Panel convenes public hearings on the Project. The Panel prepares its report after evaluating all project documentation and assessing public input. The Panel recommends that the Project proceed, with conditions. The federal and provincial governments accept the Panel report and agree with its recommendations.
The provincial government stipulates that the Project will not proceed until adequate funds are committed.
(The Subsidiary Agreement committed $195.7 million to the Project. Another $47.1 million was available from the Halifax and Dartmouth Pollution Funds. However, the estimated cost of the Project was $385.2 million.)
1994 HHCI undertakes consolidation of outfalls in Halifax and
Dartmouth. The provincial government commissions a study
into privatization options for the project.
1995 The Subsidiary Agreement expires and the Project does not
proceed. HHCI is dissolved.
1996 Municipal amalgamation creates the Halifax Regional
Municipality, incorporating the cities of Halifax and
Dartmouth, Town of Bedford, and County of Halifax. This brings all the communities surrounding the Harbour under one municipal jurisdiction. Halifax Regional Municipality hosted the Harbour Solutions Symposium to gather input on ways to move a harbour project forward.
1997 HRM Council appoints the Harbour Solutions Advisory Committee to provide advice on specific questions and issues not completely addressed by the Symposium.

The Harbour Solutions Advisory Committee makes its recommendations to Council and at the same time a consulting group led by Jacques Whitford Environment Ltd. submits a Concept Plan to Council. Both reports are approved by Council as the basis for moving forward.

1999 HRM Council approves a short list of three consortia to bid on the project. Council also approves a commitment to twothirds of the $315,000,000 capital cost, plus the full operating costs. Cost-sharing on the remaining one-third of capital costs is sought from the federal and provincial governments.
2000 A Request for Proposals was released May 31, 2000 to the short-listed companies. Responses were received by November 2000. An evaluation process was undertaken, during which a number of questions and clarifications were exchanged with the proponents.
2001 The technical evaluation process was concluded during
September 2001. The evaluation results were prepared by the Proposal Review Committee and provided to the Proposal Selection Committee. The Selection Committee provided a recommendation to HRM Council in October 2001. Council accepted the recommendation on December 11, 2001, and directed that negotiations be concluded with the selected proponent, the Halifax Regional Environmental Partnership.

A draft contract was approved in principle on May 7, 2002, and formally approved July 9, 2002. The contract was signed on October 8, 2002. In September 2002, the Provincial and Federal Governments each committed to partially fund the Project, satisfying the funding condition of the Project contract.

On October 22, 2002, Council stated its intention to
proceed with the Project in its entirety, and decided to raise additional funds through the water bill only after investigating further federal/provincial funding and other revenue sources.

After an intensive and rigorous competitive process, HRM selected Ondeo Halifax Regional Environmental Partnership (HREP) to implement the long awaited Harbour Cleanup.

2003 HRM terminated relationship with HREP due to fundamental differences over quality control of the sewage treatment plants discharge. In August of 2003, HRM contracted with Dexter Construction to design and build the sewage collection system. In October, 2003, HRM Council approved a staff recommendation to enter into negotiations with the Harbour Solutions Consortium (HSC) for design and construction of three sewage treatment plants. On November 12, 2003, the official groundbreaking ceremony took place to mark the beginning of the construction of the Sewage Collection System phase of the Project.
2004 On June 15, 2004, Mayor Peter Kelly, on behalf of Halifax Regional Council, officially signed agreements with D & D Water Solutions Inc., formally known as HSC, for the design, construction and commissioning of three sewage treatment plants (STP), for a guaranteed maximum price of $133.2 million (plus flow through costs of bonding, insurance, applicable taxes and inflation). On November 30, 2004, the biosolids contract was signed for a facility to manufacture a fertilizer/soil amendment product at Aerotech Park.
2005 Construction of the Halifax Wastewater Treatment Plant commenced in 2005. Site preparation and road construction for the Dartmouth Wastewater Treatment Plant also began.

The Halifax Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) officially opens in February 2008. In full operation, the plant was able to meet the goal of greatly improved water quality, reaching objectives for the harbour as set out by residents and meeting all environmental criteria.

Black Rock and Dingle Beaches open to supervised swimming for the first time in decades.

August 2008, the Dartmouth WWTF begins treating wastewater flows.


On January 14, 2009, the Halifax WWTF suffered wastewater flooding damage due to an extended local area power outage. As a result, the plant was temporarily shut down and all wastewater previously routed through the plant is being screened through various Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) chambers and discharged into Halifax Harbour.

An investigation commenced to determine extent of damage, what caused the problem, and next steps.

In fall 2009 dry weather flows are introduced back into the Halifax WWTF and floatables screened.

December 2009 saw wastewater flows introduced into the Herring Cove WWTF.

2010 May 2010, the Advanced-Primary Treatment system returns to operation in the Halifax WWTF. June, the UV(ultra violet) disinfection is brought on-line and the Halifax WWTF returns to full operation. July 2nd - Black Rock and Dingle beaches open for supervised swimming.