Shediac Bay residents rally for clean water

Click to play video 'Protesters march on City Hall in Shediac Bay, N.B. over water quality' Protesters march on City Hall in Shediac Bay, N.B. over water quality
WATCH ABOVE: Protesters marched on City Hall in Shediac Bay, N.B. on Sunday to protest the quality of water in and around public beaches. Paul Cormier reports.

About 250 people marched onto Shediac City Hall on Sunday, to denounce the government’s handling of water quality issues at beaches in and around Shediac Bay.

Over the past few years, high counts of E. coli and fecal contamination have made it unsafe to swim in the waters surrounding Parlee Beach, Murray Beach and more.

The provincial government puts up signs at these locations to advise the public on the quality of the water on any given day.

The province has also adopted federal guidelines to test water quality — but environmental critics say the testing is flawed.

“We have water testing that’s taking 48 hours which means that the public could be swimming in polluted waters, or outside the perimeters of the limits for two days and not even know it, putting children and everybody’s health at risk,” says MLA for Albert county and opposition critic Brian Keirstead.

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The Brian Gallant government recently allocated $3 million to investigate the source of the contamination, and clean up the pollution.

Groups here say it’s not enough.

They’re asking the government to put a moratorium on new developments — especially campgrounds.

“Five hundred metres from the shore, 500 metres from any wetlands, temporarily, until they get their act together,” said citizen spokesperson Pierre Gagnon.

The management of wetlands is another big issue.

Since 2011, a large portion of them are regulated by what groups here say are outdated maps. Critics say the current system is endangering about 50 per cent of wetlands, and making them open to development.

“The only criteria that governs wetlands is a map called GONB — if your’e not on GONB, even if you’re in the middle of a marsh, sorry it’s not a marsh — that’s what the law states right now,” added Gagnon

About 350,000 people visit the Shediac Bay area every year — a major economic driver for the region. People at the rally worry that without solutions, that business may falter.

“Our son lives in Rothesay and he says he won’t bring the children up because he’s afraid of them being sick, so it makes us very sad,” said Cap-Brule resident Marcia Crossman.