Water Quality Monitoring

The objective of the Marsh Creek Water Quality Monitoring project in the past was to retrieve and record as much data as possible prior to the ceasing of the raw sewage outfalls. Following the cessation of raw sewage deposition in late 2014, the objectives of the project continued, with a mind toward evaluating the recovery the water quality since this historic Harbour Cleanup milestone. Since the completion of Harbour Cleanup, the Water Quality Monitoring project has expanded into various other watersheds within the Greater Saint John area.

Water samples are repeatedly collected and tested at a number of sites over the summer field season. These tests are performed by summer students from the Chemical Technology programme at the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC). Seven different tests are performed including testing pH and dissolved oxygen in the field, and testing total fecal coliform count, orthophosphates and total suspended solids in the labratory at NBCC. 

Overall, the water quality monitoring conducted in the 2017 field season throughout the Greater Saint John area, revealed that the urban and suburban watersheds have many potential impacts that have resulted in diminished water quality in some areas; however, they are still capable of, and do, support aquatic life. The most notable impact to these urban watersheds is stormwater runoff, the potential for sanitary sewer overflows being discharged into these watercourses, and riparian degradation. All of the watersheds monitored also have areas of exemplary water quality that meet the habitat and water quality needs of aquatic species. The variance between these areas indicates that these watersheds have the potential to flourish as productive habitats and that demonstrable improvements can be made to restore the degraded areas and improve stormwater runoff and filtration.

The Marsh Creek watershed is a prime example of how reducing anthropogenic impacts into a
watercourse can lead to substantial improvements in water quality. Since the completion of
Harbour Cleanup in 2014, the Marsh Creek watershed has shown improvements year after year in
terms of water quality. The dissolved oxygen concentrations have increased at all the monitoring
sites this year and surpassed the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guideline
recommendation concentration of 6.5 mg/L on average at all the sites. Prior to the cessation of
discharging sewage into this watercourse many of the impacted sites were so low in dissolved
oxygen that it would not support any aquatic life; therefore, the improvement of this watercourse
to a point of surpassing this guideline is a great achievement. Additionally, the fecal coliform
concentration continues to decrease; however, lift station overflows still likely remain an issue within
this watershed and as such only two sites were below the Health Canada guideline of an average
of 200 CFU/100 mL. The concentrations found this year continue to represent a large reduction
of fecal coliform contamination when compared to pre-Harbour Cleanup data, which has allowed
the watercourse to slowly recover and improve its overall water quality. The improvements seen in
the Marsh Creek watershed demonstrate that the efforts and costs behind Harbour Cleanup
established a pioneering example of how a community can improve the management of urban
waterways to enhance aquatic habitats and the health of its citizens.


Hazen Creek Fish Passage Improvements

The alterations to Hazen Creek’s stream channels resulted in a degradation of the ecological integrity of the watershed, due in large part to the introduction of numerous culverts that created vertical drops that were impassable to the upstream movement of fish. ACAP Saint John’s watershed management plan for Hazen Creek identified these ‘hanging culverts’ as priority items for remediation. In 2012, the City of Saint John initiated five fish habitat compensation projects in Hazen Creek (that were proposed by ACAP in 2010) including the replacement [elimination] of two hanging culverts, the back flooding of one culvert via rock weirs, 30 m of bank stabilisation, and the insertion of a wing deflector to reduce stream braiding. The scale and scope of these projects, which included the use of large rock, rip-rap and log materials, necessitated the use of heavy equipment and in some cases the removal of existing riparian vegetation. The loss of vegetation and associated potential for erosion was compensated for through Hydroseeding, straw mulch and brush mats.

See some of the results of this amazing restoration project in the video below!


Courtenay Bay Fish Communities Monitoring

The objectives of this study were to expand our understanding of the environmental attributes of Courtenay Bay, the tidal marsh and estuary of the Marsh Creek watershed. Field studies were conducted to ascertain the occurrence of diadromous fishes and migratory birds within the watershed.

This project found that despite a diversity and abundance of aquatic and brackish habitats, there were no anadromous fishes in Marsh Creek upstream of the tide gates on the Courtenay Bay Causeway, whereas American eels were found to be ubiquitous throughout all subdrainages of the watershed. The report did not ascertain the reason for the lack of anadromous fishes; however, the occurrence of five flapper-style tide gates is considered a likely contributing factor. In 2015, one year after Harbour Cleanup was completed, Alewifes were caught for the first time by ACAP Saint John in Courtenay Bay below the tide gates.