Major upgrades to Winnipeg's largest sewage treatment plant will not be complete for another seven years, according to city water and waste officials, who said the original 2014 deadline wasn't realistic.
Water and waste director Diane Sacher said Monday the city will not complete construction of a $379-million nutrient-removal facility at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre until 2019. The facility treats 75 per cent of Winnipeg's waste water and is one of the nation's worst phosphorus polluters, a chemical that contributes to the harmful algae blooms in Lake Winnipeg.
The province ordered the city to build the new nutrient-removal facility at the North End plant after a massive failure caused the plant to spew raw sewage into the Red River for 57 hours in 2002.
Sacher said the city submitted its plans for upgrades to the province in June, and they have since been reviewed and approved by the Clean Environment Commission. She said it will take time to design and commission the new facility, and the 2014 deadline is unrealistic.
The new emission limits, which are expected to drastically reduce the amount of phosphorus and other nutrients released into local waterways, will take effect when the work is done in April 2019, she said.
Water discharged from the North End plant into local waterways accounts for about five per cent of the phosphorus that flows into Lake Winnipeg.
Preliminary 2011 emissions data from the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) released late last week show the North End plant dumped 205 tonnes of phosphorus into Winnipeg waterways last year, down from the 247 tonnes it released in 2010. 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.
Last year, the city put off construction of the nutrient-removal facility due to a dispute with the province over how best to remove nitrogen.
Sacher said the city plans to use a biological process to remove phosphorus from waste water, which in turn removes nitrogen.
Dan McInnis, Manitoba's assistant deputy minister of climate change and environmental protection, said the province has asked the city to provide a more detailed master plan by next October and find ways to reduce the amount of phosphorus before the nutrient-removal facility is finished. Once the plant is complete, the facility will only allowed to release one milligram of phosphorus per litre, which McInnis said will cut the amount of phosphorus discharged into local rivers by more than half.
Other stuff that happened at council's public works committee on Monday:
Elm tree strategy: The committee approved a plan that recommends Winnipeg work with the province to combat Dutch elm disease. The strategy includes asking the province to reinstate buffer zones in the RMs of Richot and Springfield and split the cost of tree removal, Elm bark beetle control and tree-planting. This year, the province contributed $1 million to fighting the disease and the city's spent $2.7 million.
The city has proposed spending an additional $1.9 million and has asked the province to match the contribution.
The plan has to be approved by executive policy committee and city council.
Water and sewer rates: The committee voted in favour of a three-year increase to water and sewer rates. The average Winnipeg household will spend $939.32 on water and sewer bills in 2013, an increase of $38.32 from this year, based on a 4.3 per cent rate hike proposed by the water and waste department. The increase marks the 10th straight year water and sewer rates are set to rise to help pay for upgrades to Winnipeg's sewage-treatment plants and sewer replacements.