PEOPLE looking for a master plan on what Winnipeg will do with tonnes of sewage sludge in the future were disappointed at a public forum Tuesday night.
"To me there are so many red flags in this vision, this whole process, that all the citizens of Winnipeg should be concerned," said St. Norbert farm owner Louise May.
"If we don't get our s together, then I would say our ability to meet our future needs is going to be greatly reduced."
Not everyone was as blunt as May or as critical, but many questioned the need for more research to rid sewage of pathogens, organic waste and a cocktail of chemicals and inevitable prescription drugs flushed down our toilets and sinks, along with human waste.
About 50 people turned out for the public forum held at the Children's Museum at The Forks.
Some wondered how the city was going to meet its Oct. 2 deadline, at which time it must submit a master sewage disposal plan to Manitoba Conservation.
Winnipeg's three sewage-treatment plants produced about 13,500 dry tonnes of biosolids in 2012. The city expects that to increase to 23,000 tonnes by 2037.
Biosolid material, commonly known as sewage sludge, is the nutrient-rich end product of sewage treatment. Biosolids contain significant quantities of organic nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as trace amounts of minerals that are beneficial for plant growth.
This stage of the process may seem messy because it's an early step toward putting a master plan together for sewage disposal, said Duane Griffin, head of the city's water and waste's management's engineering division.
"That's what we are doing in the next six months. We're looking to the public for consultation," Griffin said.
Before 2011, the city would distribute a good portion of its biosolid material on agriculture land. Concerns about Lake Winnipeg, coupled with provincial regulations on biosolid dumping on farmland, slowed the practice, forcing the city to store its biosolid material at the Brady Road Landfill
Arnold Permut, the city's waste-water systems engineer, listed a menu of options for sewage solids: spreading it as fertilizer on farmlands, turning the stuff into pellets as a biofuel and fertilizer, composting it, dumping it in a landfill or using it to replace lost topsoil and other land reclamation projects.
A second public meeting at the Children's Museum is scheduled for Jan. 15, starting at 9 a.m.