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Ecosystem/Bras d'Or Lake
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Hold It!
For recreational boaters cruising the roomy waters of the Bras d’Or, the dilution capacity of the Lakes may seem immense. But the sluggish waters are not equipped to handle the raw sewage that many boaters discharge directly from their craft. A lack of holding tanks in boats, and a shortage of pump-out stations on the Lakes, has contributed to a high level of fecal coliform contamination.

Lake protection groups are working to educate pleasure craft operators about the degradation that results from the dumping of human waste and to encourage them to equip their boats with properly-maintained holding tanks. They are also seeking the designation of Bras d’Or Lakes as a “non-discharge” zone under the Pleasure Craft Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act.

Water Quality Warnings

Within the past few years, as more and more Bras d’Or shellfish beds have been closed due to fecal coliform contamination, residents of the Lakes have realized that their picture-perfect body of water is not immune from water quality problems.

While the heavy metal pollution that threatens more populated and industrial areas is not a concern in the Bras d’Or Lakes, contamination from 3 sources – overloaded municipal sewage treatment facilities, malfunctioning domestic septic systems and pleasure boats – has reached a critical level in many parts of the Lakes.

With only 3 narrow openings to the sea, the Lakes have very limited ability to flush contaminants out of their environment. Even small amounts of pollution can build up quickly. The sheltered embayments favoured by shellfish growers are particularly susceptible to fecal coliform build-up.

Several government and volunteer organizations, including the Unamaki Institute of Natural Resources, the Eskakoni Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society, are working to assess the health of the Lakes, raise awareness about the need to protect them, and undertake practical prevention and remediation measures. Recent Lakes initiatives have included:

Visit the Bras d’Or Lakes & Watershed Interpretive Centre
Learn more about the ecology, geology and history of the Bras d’Or Lakes at the Bras d’Or Lakes & Watershed Interpretive Centre, housed in a heritage building located on the main street of the Village of Baddeck. The Centre’s feature exhibition, “Ecology of Bras d’Or,” interprets the natural highlights of the Bras d’Or Lakes watershed. The Centre is operated by the Bras d’Or Preservation Foundation, an organization that promotes lakeshore conservation.


- Construction of a state-of-the art, high-capacity sewage treatment plant in the community of Baddeck, on St. Patrick’s Channel. The updated plant prevents the discharge of untreated sewage overflow from one of the Lakes’ largest communities.

- Shoreline surveys and water sampling to identify and evaluate all sources of pollution.
- Formation of the Pitu’Paq Committee, consisting of 5 Bras d’Or First Nations communities and 5 Bras d’Or municipalities, to work with the Canadian and Nova Scotian governments to resolve sewage problems around the Lake.

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