Young paddlers at Banook Canoe Club left high and dry by algae outbreak

Blue-green algae is keeping younger paddlers out of action at the Banook Canoe Club in Dartmouth, N.S.

On Tuesday, HRM issued a blue-green algae bloom risk advisory for Lake Banook and Lake Micmac advising people not to swim in either.

“We had prepared for this in case it did happen — and sure enough it did,” said Stephen Pottie, general manager of the Banook Canoe Club.

Reduced program for younger paddlers

Some types of algae produce toxins during blooms. When the blooms decay, the toxins can be released into the water posing a risk to people and pets.

HRM said lake users should wash with tap water as soon as possible after they come in contact with blue-green algae because there is a risk of illness.

Pottie said the paddling program at the Banook Canoe Club has been scaled back. The swimming program at the club has also been put on hold.

A bloom of blue-green algae as shown by researchers near Edmonton. (University of Alberta)

He said experienced paddlers, along with the club’s war canoe and dragon boat, are still able to go out on the lake.

Athletes who train at the club are also allowed to continue to paddle, he said, because “they’re not likely to tip” and they know to shower as soon as they’re out of the water.

Pottie said the precautions are meant to protect younger members and members at risk of falling into the water.

But he said the club has managed to make the best of the situation.

“We still have a summer camp going on,” Pottie said. “And the kids that were here were having fun, lots of smiles, lots of activity. I don’t think we missed a beat today.”

Pottie said he is expecting to hear an update on the status of the lake Thursday.

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Health officials warn of salmonella risk in frozen breaded chicken

The province’s chief medical officer is warning Nova Scotians of the risks of salmonella from eating frozen breaded chicken products, regardless of what company makes them.

Two cases of salmonella infection have been reported in Nova Scotia as an outbreak associated with the products spreads across the country. 

Two products have been pulled from shelves — No Name frozen chicken nuggets and unbranded chicken fries.

The nuggets were sold in 907-gram packages (UPC code 0 6038389685 0) and have an expiry date of May 15, 2019. The unbranded $10 chicken fries are sold in 1.81-kilogram bags with an expiry date of March 23, 2019. 

The products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. 

Be careful, regardless of brand

But Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, says consumers should be careful with all frozen breaded chicken products, regardless of brand.

“Our key message to the public is that these products, some of them may be pre-cooked, some of them may not be cooked and be raw, but they all have an increased risk of having salmonella contamination,” he said.

There have been nine outbreaks of salmonella enteritidis​ associated with frozen breaded chicken products in Canada since May 2017. Strang said the increase is due to new, more advanced, methods of detecting salmonella.

Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang said people need to make sure they’re cooking the products properly. (CBC)

He said frozen breaded chicken products that haven’t been recalled are safe to eat as long as people follow the instructions on the box and cook the food properly. 

Salmonella is an intestinal infection transmitted by eating food from infected animals. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.

Children, seniors and people with chronic health issues are most at risk, said Strang. 

“It’s something that needs to be taken seriously,” he said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working to create stricter rules for companies that make these products in an effort to reduce the risk of salmonella, said Strang. He expects those new rules to come into effect next year.

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Seatbelt safety message still lost on many motorists, say RCMP

While Nova Scotia RCMP said distracted driving, speeding and alcohol are all factors in fatal motor vehicle crashes, they’re seeing more and more drivers and passengers not wearing, and even refusing to wear, seatbelts.

Cpl. Dal Hutchinson said drivers he’s pulled over sometimes complain seatbelts are uncomfortable. He said others will drape the seatbelt over their shoulder without buckling up.

Some drivers, he said, are more defiant about it.

“Some people will tell you they don’t agree with wearing seatbelts, that it’s their own personal choice,” Hutchinson said.

“That’s when we have a conversation with them about our own personal experience when we go to collisions. We see the aftermath of people not wearing their seatbelts and that is something that, as a police officer, it’s hard to get that out of your memory.”

181 tickets for not wearing a seatbelt

During July, Halifax District RCMP and Southeast Traffic Services ticketed 181 drivers or passengers for not wearing a seatbelt.

During the same time:

  • 370 drivers were ticketed for speeding.
  • 69 drivers were ticketed for using a mobile phone while driving.
  • 73 drivers were ticketed for aggressive driving.
  • 43 drivers were ticketed for driving without a valid licence.

According to provincial data, there have been 37 fatal collisions in Nova Scotia this year — leading to 40 deaths.

In 2017, there were 45 fatal collisions resulting in 47 deaths. In 2016,  there were 46 fatal collisions resulting in 48 deaths.

Bruce Hetherington, a road safety advocate, said the numbers are troubling. His son, James, was killed in a head-on crash on Highway 103 in 2008.

Hetherington said he sees distracted drivers on the road all the time.

“When you’re in your car, you’ve got your family, you’ve got your life in your hands and other people’s families in your hands. So what you should be doing is just driving,” he said.

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Halifax police seek man wearing nothing but a G-string

Halifax police are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man seen wearing only a black G-string thong while masturbating in public twice over past few weeks.

The two alleged indecent acts happened on July 25 and August 12 in the Burnside area of Dartmouth, N.S., Halifax Regional Police said in a press release on Tuesday.

Police said they are searching for a short, clean-shaven white man with a heavy build.

He is described as having black hair and thick black-rimmed glasses. He is approximately five-foot-nine and 250 pounds.

Anyone who has information on this incident or the identity of the man is asked to call police or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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WestJet axes twice-daily run from Deer Lake to Halifax

A twice-daily flight from Deer Lake, on Newfoundland’s west coast, to Halifax is being discontinued as of Oct. 28.

“It’s disappointing news, but not totally unexpected,” says Jamie Schwartz, CEO of the Deer Lake Regional Airport.

Unfortunately there just weren’t enough bums in the seats.– Jason Schwartz

“We were aware that the service was struggling for quite some time, actually since its inception in 2015, and … we’re quite surprised it had lasted this long, to some extent.”

WestJet introduced the flights between Deer Lake and Halifax in 2015, and Schwartz said the timing was unfortunate, given a turbulent economy and fewer people travelling through.

“Unfortunately, it started at a time when we saw a decline in traffic … to Alberta because of the resulting oil prices and the loss of traffic, commuting workers to and from Alberta,” he told CBC’s Corner Brook Morning Show.

“We had hoped we could build the service over the last few years but unfortunately there just weren’t enough bums in the seats, and airlines need people in the seats to be able to continue.”

Deer Lake Airport CEO Jamie Schwartz says it’s not surprising that WestJet cancelled the flight. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

While the news is discouraging, Schwartz said, the overall number of people using services in the Deer Lake airport isn’t down, just the frequency of flights.

An Air Canada route to and from Halifax, for example, he said, is adding a different aircraft with more seating capacity. WestJet will also be maintaining its seasonal flight to Toronto from Deer Lake, Schwartz said.

He added that there won’t be an effect on local jobs, other than the loss to the WestJet employees.

Overall airline changes

Lauren Stewart, a spokesperson for WestJet, said the change in route is part of an overall, Canada-wide route change for the airline.

The “available seat miles” across the WestJet network have been reduced by six percentage points, or 460 seat miles, this year, she said.

The frequency of WestJet flights from St. John’s to Halifax is also dropping as of Oct. 28. Instead of four daily flights, there will only be three starting in the fall.

And in Nova Scotia, a twice-daily flight between Sydney and Halifax is being reduced to once a day.

WestJet says the changes to its flight frequencies are based mainly on demand. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

There were a number of factors that led to this decision, Stewart said, but mainly, it comes down to consumer demand and a responsibility to shareholders.

“The decisions to remove a route are not taken lightly, and we do weigh the trade-offs against the benefits. Ultimately we do have a responsibility to use our assets to provide a service that most guests are looking for and that gives us a reasonable rate on investments for shareholders,” she told CBC’s On The Go.

“So we appreciate and recognize that this is unfortunate news for Deer Lake but we will continue to evaluate and make changes as necessary.”

In Deer Lake, Schwartz said the airport is doing well despite challenging circumstances.

Despite challenging economic and demographic circumstances, Schwartz says the Deer Lake Airport is managing fine. (CBC)

“I’ve always said that airports are a good indicator of what’s happening in the local economies of the areas that they serve and, unfortunately, I think we’re seeing population decline, we’re not seeing many new jobs being added to the market place, an older population, and so on,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong; we’re still very strong and in a very strong position to continue and we still have a number of different services and a number of different routes and we’re in a healthy financial situation, so this is a bit of a step back but certainly nothing that’s not manageable.”

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Renowned veterinarian, wildlife rescuer remembered as 'force of nature'

Dr. Helene Van Doninck, a celebrated Nova Scotia veterinarian and wildlife rescuer, is being remembered for her work in wildlife rehabilitation and treatment of oil-soaked birds.

Van Doninck died last week from ovarian cancer.

She co-founded the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Brookfield, N.S., with her husband Murdo Messer in 2001, dedicating her life to doing what she loved.

“She was a force of nature,” Messer said on Monday.

She and Messer created the only eagle flight centre of its kind in North America.

Murdo Messer says he will carry on Van Doninck’s vision and keep the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre open. (CBC)

“Her favourite thing was seeing the animals return to the wild. Bar none. The look on her face when an eagle would leave … she just absolutely beamed when that happened,” said Messer. 

“For her, seeing them at their best when they got back to the wild was the thing that she loved most.”

Van Doninck also advocated that hunters and fishermen stop using lead ammunition and fishing tackle, saving countless animals, particularly eagles, from lead poisoning

Messer said she made inroads in the hunting and fishing communities and got many people to change to non-lead alternatives.

She also worked to keep wild bird populations safe from cats, encouraging owners to keep their pets indoors.

Helene Van Doninck is pictured in 2016 after performing her first surgery on a snake at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. (Kayla Collins/DVM)

In her spare time, Van Doninck would work in vet clinics. She also trained organizations how to treat animals following oil spills.

Messer plans to continue Van Doninck’s vision to run the rehabilitation centre for as long as possible.

“We were like peas in a pod, she was everything to me. So I’m going to miss this woman. I can’t even begin to describe how much I will miss Helene,” he said.

A golden eagle treated by Helene Van Doninck at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is released. (Submitted)

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Emera pulls out from troubled Cape Sharp Tidal project

Nova Scotia energy company Emera Inc. has withdrawn its involvement with the tidal turbine in the Minas Passage weeks after its partner OpenHydro Group Ltd. filed for liquidation.

In a statement from Emera released Monday afternoon, the company said it was left with “no practical choice” but to withdraw from Cape Sharp Tidal Venture.

Cape Sharp Tidal was a collaboration between the Irish company OpenHydro — which had an 80 per cent stake — and Emera to generate power using the tides in the Bay of Fundy.

“From the beginning, we understood that OpenHydro’s in-stream tidal energy technology was cutting edge and required investment in a non-commercial demonstration project to prove its viability,” the release from Emera said.

“Without support from the technology developer, OpenHydro, to operate and maintain the technology and the turbine, we do not believe that there is further value in pursuing this project for our business.”

1st turbine lasted 6 months

The first demonstration turbine was deployed in the Minas Passage and connected to the grid in November 2016. It was removed from the water six months later.

The new tidal turbine was deployed on July 24 and connected to the power grid. At the time, fishermen said the company rushed to install the equipment days before announcing its liquidation.

A press release issued on July 26 from OpenHydro’s parent company, Naval Energies, said a board meeting the day before was where the company determined it would no longer be investing in tidal energy.

Nova Scotia’s energy minister says the turbine cannot stay in the Bay of Fundy indefinitely. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The Irish High Court appointed Grant Thornton as liquidator for both OpenHydro Technologies Ltd. and its parent group, OpenHydro Group Ltd., on July 26.

In its statement Monday, Emera said the company notified both OpenHydro and Grant Thornton earlier in the day that it was withdrawing involvement. The company is “in the process of examining our rights and obligations under our various commercial agreements with OpenHydro,” the statement reads.

The release also said Emera has “repeatedly reinforced with Grant Thornton the need to continue environmental monitoring and safe operation of the deployed turbine.”

Weekly monitoring

Cape Sharp Tidal isolated the turbine from the power grid and it is not currently generating electricity, meaning the environmental monitoring equipment is also not powered.

The turbine is subject to weekly monitoring, but a contingency plan put in place for when that monitoring cannot be done was initiated during the week of Aug. 2.

Last week, Nova Scotia’s energy minister, Derek Mombourquette, said the turbine cannot be allowed to sit at the bottom of the Bay of Fundy for an extended period of time.

Emera plans to continue to support other tidal energy projects in the Bay of Fundy through its involvement in the so-called federal ocean supercluster initiative, the company said in a statement.

Spokesperson for both Emera and Cape Sharp Tidal, Stacey Pineau, said previously that any agreement between Emera and OpenHydro is “commercially sensitive” and will not be released to the public.

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