Winnipeg plans to delay upgrades to its largest sewage-treatment plant for another year despite new data that shows the facility remains among the nation's worst for phosphorus pollution.
Preliminary 2011 emissions data from the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) released late last week show the city's North End Water Pollution Control Centre dumped 205 tonnes of phosphorus into Winnipeg waterways last year, down from the 247 tonnes it released the previous year. Data show the Winnipeg plant remained the fourth-largest phosphorus polluter of any industrial facility in the country, behind sewage-treatment plants in Vancouver and Montreal.
Phosphorus is a nutrient that contributes to the harmful algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg. The data show the plant also released 1,648 tonnes of ammonia, which can threaten aquatic life.
The NPRI report was made public as the City of Winnipeg prepares to put off construction of major upgrades to the sewage-treatment plant for the second year in a row.
Public works committee chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) confirmed the upcoming 2013 capital budget will not include upgrades to the North End Water Pollution Control Centre and the city will delay construction until 2014.
"It's been pushed back a year," Vandal said late Friday.
Last year, the city put off construction of the $379-million nutrient-removal facility due to a dispute with the province over how best to remove nitrogen.
Vandal said the city will finish upgrades to its North End plant once it completes construction of nutrient-removal facilities at its South End Water Pollution Control Centre. He said it is expected more details will be made public about the North End treatment plant's upgrades at council's public works committee meeting this morning.
The North End plant is the city's largest sewage-treatment facility, where 75 per cent of Winnipeg's wastewater is treated.
The province ordered the city to build the new nutrient-removal facility after a massive failure caused the North End plant to spew raw sewage into the Red River for 57 hours in 2002. The nutrient-removal facility is part of more than $1 billion in upgrades to Winnipeg's sewage-treatment system.
Kelly Kjartanson, manager of environmental standards for the city, said the North End plant's environmental licence stipulates the nutrient-removal upgrades must be complete by the end of 2014. The new facility will comply with all provincial environmental regulations, but Kjartanson said the city will not meet that deadline.
"That's not feasible, because the North End plant will be done last," he said.
Kjartanson said Winnipeg's waste water discharged into local waterways accounts for about five per cent of the phosphorus and four per cent of the nitrogen that flows into Lake Winnipeg. The bulk of the nutrient loads in the lake come from the United States and agricultural runoff, he said.
He said the total amount of phosphorus released into local rivers likely dropped between 2010 and 2011, as the city started treating a byproduct of the waste-water treatment process, called centrate, to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen.
"It's very small volume-wise, but in terms of nutrient load, it is very large," he said.
NPRI data also show the North End sewage-treatment plant released 244 tonnes of nitrate ion, which is a form of nitrogen, 56 kilograms of lead, 150 kg of arsenic, and 0.3 kg of mercury into local rivers in 2011.
Amount of phosphorus Winnipeg's North End Water Pollution Control Centre has dumped into local rivers in recent years
2011 (preliminary): 205 tonnes
2010: 247 tonnes
2009: 297 tonnes
2008: 268 tonnes
2007: 284 tonnes
What gets dumped into local rivers from sewage-treatment plants
North End Water Pollution Control Centre
Phosphorus: 205 tonnes
Nitrate ion (form of nitrogen): 244 tonnes
Ammonia: 1,648 tonnes
South End Water Pollution Control Centre
Phosphorus: 95 tonnes
Nitrate ion: 41 tonnes
Ammonia: 612 tonnes
West End Water Pollution Control Centre
Phosphorus: 11 tonnes
Nitrate ion: 11 tonnes
Ammonia: 18 tonnes
-- source: National Pollutant Release Inventory, preliminary 2011 results