Sewage and the Gander River


Kevin Higgins
Published on August 07, 2014

Long-time angler worried sewage could spell end of Gander River

It’s what anglers on the Gander River live for — the peace and tranquility of standing waist-deep in rushing water and casting a fly into a ripple with the hopes of hooking an Atlantic salmon.

Slipping and sliding on sludge and slime isn’t part of the experience anglers seek.

“That’s not to speak of the smell,” said Gander’s Walter Crummell.

The 83-year-old has been fishing the Gander River since he returned home from Alberta in 1997.

He has enjoyed many mornings and evenings flicking a fly into the mighty river.

But he said that changed just after Appleton and Glenwood installed a new sewage treatment system in 2007.

He thinks the grime and sludge are results of the treated water coming from the system.

“Five or six years ago there was nothing wrong with the river, but since then the river is atrocious with slime, slub and sludge,” said Crummell. “In the next 10-15 years that stuff is going to be in the entire river below the pipe. My main concern is that we are going to lose the river in regards to recreational fishery and the environment.”

Crummell said, as far as he knows, the original plan for the treatment plant had one more step of filtration before any material entered the river — the use of a nearby bog that empties into the river.

“The effluent was supposed to go there to be leached through the countryside for further cleansing, but it was never done,” he said, adding he believes the sewage treatment is a good system, but the effluent it is producing is not conducive to river life.

“I believe if that was done, we wouldn’t be seeing what we are in the river today.”

Crummell said in the vicinity below the pipe — in the areas known commonly as The Cove and Straight Shore on the Glenwood side — the rocks that are now showing due to low water levels are white with residue. The ones still under water are full of slub, slime and hair-like growth, he adds.

Very little of this is occurring on the Appleton side of the river. Crummell believes that’s because what comes out of the pipe is swept away in a current that travels a fair distance only on the Glenwood side.

“However, when you get further down the river where the current on both sides meet, it spreads out and is on both sides of the river,” Crummell said, noting the only positive process about the whole thing is the fact there is no effluent being deposited in the river during the salmon angling season, and is done at high water levels in the fall and winter.

Crummell said he wants to see a pipe from the plant removed and for the towns to revert the system back to what he understands to be the original plan.

“Anglers are all saying the same thing about this,” he said. “Salmon fishing is a big economic contributor in this area, and people should be concerned. Maybe not for the next five or so years, but in the next 10 or 15 it could be a major problem.

“Remove the pipe and go back to the original plan, and the river will heal itself.”

Crummell said he is willing to head up a special interest group in an attempt to save the river and he wants anyone who may be interested to contact him.

Not so

Glenwood Mayor Darren Bursey said the issue in the river is not a result of what’s coming out of the pipe, but more due to the river’s low water levels and high water temperatures.

“There are some micro-organisms in the water coming out of the pipe, but it is very clean water…water that a person can almost drink,” Bursey told the Beacon Tuesday.

“I’ve spoken with a representative of Abydoz (the company that installed the plant) and they actually sent a couple of people with one of our councilors there to have a look today, and they say because the water is the lowest and warmest it’s been in decades, it creates an ideal environment for these micro-organisms to grow.”

Bursey said what the people are seeing is algae and not sewage, as was the case prior to the sewage treatment system being installed.

“There’s nothing dangerous there. It’s algae, and if the flow of water was normal for this time of year, it wouldn’t be there to see,” he said. “We’ve won five major awards for being environmentally friendly, and are proud we’ve actually contributed to cleaning up the river from when some amounts of raw sewage was going into it.”

As for the plan to use the bog, Bursey said that was never the intention, even though it could be done if there was no open water to deposit the treated water.

He added that since Glenwood and Appleton installed the system, Stephenville and Central Newfoundland Waste Management have done the same and Bishop’s Falls and Buchans are in the process of putting it in place.  

“We’re quite proud of the system, but if anyone has concerns they are more than welcome to give me a call, and we can discuss the matter,” Bursey said.

“With this being so environmentally friendly and cost efficient, because we use no chemicals or electricity, I see it being used in more communities.”


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