‘It’s pretty embarrassing:’ Winnipeg aims to put less poop in river

3.2 million litres of raw sewage and rainfall runoff spilled into Winnipeg’s river system last month

Canoeist David Danyluk doesn’t live far from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River but he tends to spend more time paddling further afield.

That’s because he doesn’t want to risk gliding through the sewage that regularly makes its way into Winnipeg’s river system.

The sewage dumps are a black mark on the city’s reputation, said Danyluk.

“It’s pretty embarrassing. If a child fouls a pool, a buzzer rings and everyone takes off. And here, it’s a shrug from the city.”

READ MORE: One trillion litres of sewage leaked into lakes and rivers over last five years

VIDEO: Victoria’s mascot, Mr. Floatie, officially relieved of duties

Some 3.2 million litres of raw sewage and rainfall runoff spilled into Winnipeg’s river system last month but the incident was unusual only in scope.

The amount — more than an Olympic-sized swimming pool — was one of the largest spills in years, but was one of about 20 such events that occur each year.

The city is planning to spend more than $1 billion and take more than two decades to greatly reduce such spills, although they will not be completely eliminated.

Winnipeg’s problem stems from old infrastructure. About a third of the city relies on a combined sewer system — pipes that collect both raw sewage and runoff from rainfall or melting snow.

The combined water is sent to a sewage treatment plant nearly all the time, but in periods of very heavy rain it goes directly into the rivers.

They system was designed that way decades ago to avoid overwhelming the treatment plant and to reduce the likelihood of basement flooding.

The city is working on a 27-year plan to greatly reduce the number of combined sewer overflows.

It would cost $4 billion to replace all the combined sewers, so the city is relying on a variety of measures to keep the cost down.

“We’re hoping to do some work with what they call green infrastructure — you know, you repave a back alley in a certain way so that it slows the drainage of (storm) water into the system,” said Brian Mayes, a city councillor who chairs the city’s water and waste committee.

“Sewer items never really grab the public’s attention the way potholes do, or crime, but I think increasingly people are commenting on it and they’re concerned.”

The city points out that the overflow amounts are a very small fraction of the water that’s captured and treated each year.

The Lake Winnipeg Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the large body of water into which Winnipeg’s rivers flow, says the sewage-spill issue is small compared to problems such as phosphorus.

Phosphorus from sources that include wastewater can choke oxygen from lakes and promote the growth of algae blooms.

The city is also tackling that issue over the long-term by upgrading one of its major sewage treatment plants to remove phosphorus.

Danyluk agrees phosphorus is a bigger problem but he said the raw-sewage overflows should be a no-brainer.

He said politicians and the public might have made fixing the problem a higher priority long ago, if not for the fact that Winnipeg takes its drinking water from a lake 150 kilometres away in a community straddling the Ontario boundary.

“If we weren’t importing water from another province, I think we’d be a lot more concerned about our discharges.”

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

What’s Up: Things to see and do on Family Day

There’s plenty of fun to be had across the West Kootenay this coming long weekend!

Call a foul on cancer with the Pink Whistle Campaign

Local basketball referees are raising money for cancer research

Man found dead identified as Andreas Pittinger

Pittinger was known locally for hosting a radio show

Biologists discover another female calf in depleted South Purcell Mountain Caribou herd

Calf will be moved to Revelstoke maternity pens, then released

Man seriously hurt after police shooting near Nelson

Incident has been reported to provincial police watchdog

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Lost a ring? This B.C. man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

East Kootenay mine deaths prompt safety initiatives

Teck produces educational video, introduces new procedures after contractor drowns at Fording River

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

‘Violent’ B.C. man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Prince George man with ties to Vernon sought by police

Most Read