Winnipeg urged to upgrade its wastewater treatment plants
A report by Manitoba's Clean Environment Commission has recommended that Winnipeg should upgrade its waste water tr...
A report by Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission has recommended that Winnipeg should upgrade its waste water treatment systems and that in the interim the three major plants should be allowed to operate only on an interim basis for two years.
Released this month, the report is the result of a series of public hearings that were held by the Commission following a spill of raw sewage into the Red River in September last year. The Commission was asked to review the city’s wastewater systems and heard from over 750 members of the public, and from government departments and environmental groups.
During the hearings the Commission heard a large number of concerns about the effects of treated wastewaters and untreated sewer overflows on the Red and Assiniboine rivers. As a result it recommended that the city should start disinfecting wastewaters at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre “without delay” and should routinely test for pathogens in all wastewater discharges.
The Commission also said that the city should be increasing its testing parameters for the presence of heavy metals, organochlorines, endocrine disrupting substances and pharmaceuticals in its influent and effluent streams.
It also wants the city to stop disposing of landfill leachate into the water control centres, and says that the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are having a damaging effect in Lake Winnipeg, should be a key part of the plant review in two years’ time.
Combined sewer overflows were another concern. The Commission wants the problem dealt with in 25 years rather the 50 years in a current proposal. Meanwhile, the city should be forced to take immediate action to reduce combined sewer overflows “by instrumenting outfalls, adjusting weirs, accelerating combined sewer replacement, advancing the pilot retention project and undertaking other reasonable measures to reduce combined sewer overflows within two years.”
Manitoba’s Energy, Science and Technology Minister, Tim Sale, responded: “In principle, we accept the [Commission’s] recommendations and will continue to work with the City of Winnipeg to help improve the reliability of their waste water treatment systems and their effectiveness in protection water quality in the Red River and Lake Winnipeg.” He also noted “Plans to upgrade these systems will also continue to be discussed with the City of Winnipeg to ensure timely implementation.”
The city is expected to develop an implementation plan within the coming weeks.
While the sewage spill has prompted the focus on Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba is raising the bar forits water quality standards across the board. It has passed “from source to tap” regulations to protect water sources, and has expanded the number of conservation districts from nine to 16. It has also brought in stronger regulations to curb effluent from livestock operations and hired more staff to conduct on-site inspections.