About 5.6 billion liters of diluted sewage poured into local waterways last year when combined sewers overflowed.
Yet the City of Winnipeg’s master plan, worth up to $ 2.3 billion, to reduce such spills could take until 2095.
This pace must accelerate, according to the chairman of the board’s environment committee.
“We owe it to our kids, we owe it to the city to just pick up the pace here. It’s better for Lake Winnipeg and it’s a big environmental commitment,” said Coun. Brian Mayes said Tuesday.
Combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, occur in older sewers that collect both precipitation and sewage in a single pipe. Heavy rains or heavy snowfall can cause river crossings in the region to overflow. Diluted wastewater contains phosphorus and nitrogen that promote algae, which eventually ends up in Lake Winnipeg.
Mayes said the master plan to reduce such pollution should move far too slowly.
“If we don’t speed up, we’ll be done by 2095. But sewer lines have a lifespan of 50 years… We will never even be able to maintain what (we) fixed,” he said. .
The ultimate goal of the master plan to reduce CSOs is to capture 85% of all spillovers in an average year. The city says that won’t be achieved until 2095, unless top governments help pay for the work.
Winnipeg estimates that it could not complete its CSO plan by 2047 (two years after the deadline) if the city, the federal government and the province each contributed $ 30 million a year. If a senior government matches this level of city funding, the city expects to be able to complete the project by 2059.
This timeline is 50 years after the provincial deadline of December 31, 2045 for the project.
“To meet the deadline… an aggressive increase in utility rates for sewerage is needed and this amount has been deemed unaffordable by taxpayers,” according to a city report.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s old sewers send billions of liters of diluted sewage into local waterways every year. More than 12 billion liters spilled in 2019, after around 8.7 billion liters in 2018 and 6.6 billion liters in 2017.
In an emailed statement, the city said weather was largely responsible for the comparatively lower overflow volume in 2020.
“The reduction was mainly due to weather conditions and low precipitation; however, some reduction can also be attributed to the progress of the sewer separation program in the Cockburn / Calrossie district,” spokesman Adam Campbell said in a statement. press release sent by email.
Mayes pushed the city to increase its annual investment in downsizing CSOs from $ 30 million to $ 45 million between 2023 and 2026, which was sent back to the 2022 budget process.
A report released Tuesday outlines a potential plan to use that higher investment, which would speed up work in the Armstrong Combined Sewer Overflow District.
While CSOs add significantly less phosphorus to Lake Winnipeg each year than the North End sewage treatment plant, environmental groups say spills are a serious problem.
“Combined sewer overflows also contribute to the presence of E. coli and fecal coliforms in our water, making it unsafe for recreation.” – Alexis Kanu, Executive Director of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation
“(Overflows) certainly have a direct impact on the water quality of our rivers here in Winnipeg… Combined sewer overflows also contribute to the presence of E. coli and fecal coliforms in our water, which makes it unsafe for recreation, ”said Alexis Kanu, Executive Director of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation.
Kanu said the impact of phosphorus from CSOs could also increase, as climate change can make sudden and severe storms and rapid snowmelt that cause overflows more frequent.
Vicki Burns, director of the Save Lake Winnipeg project, urged governments to act.
“This is a significant environmental problem and the sooner we start solving it the better. I know there are a lot of financial demands (on governments), but having safe water and clean is absolutely a priority, ”Burns said.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Manitoba government said the city may seek an extension of the 2045 CSO master plan deadline, but has not yet done so. The city also did not submit a formal funding proposal for the CSO plan to the province, the spokesperson added.
“If the city decided to allocate part of its strategic infrastructure funds to such a project, the province would consider the city’s request,” the statement said.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne enjoys telling the stories of this city, especially when it comes to politics. Joyanne became a City Hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Read the full biography