Last January Craig Tulloch, an Elmwood resident, discovered raw sewage was draining into the Red River.
His discovery helped uncover a major problem with our urban infrastructure that needs to be addressed.
One morning Craig noticed open water at a sewage outflow pipe adjacent to St. John’s Park, north of Redwood Avenue. He thought it was strange because the rest of the river was frozen. A couple days later he checked again and couldn’t believe what he found. The smell was so strong, it almost knocked him over.
Craig called 311 to report the problem to the City, and it’s lucky he did. City officials have confirmed it was his call that first made them aware of the problem. It’s uncertain how much sewage was discharged into the river, but the City reported on its website that the amount was estimated at five million litres — enough to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
This initial discovery was followed by the new discovery this summer that untreated sewage is flowing into our rivers at levels that are totally unacceptable. The infrastructure problem stems from our ‘combined sewer overflow’ system (CSO). The CSO system is designed to collect rainwater, snowmelt, and sewage all in the same pipe. With so much flow, sometimes the system can get overloaded.
Almost a third of our total sewer system is CSO, which was built between the 1880 and the 1960s in older areas of the city. East Kildonan and Elmwood are part of that 60 per cent and so we are particularly vulnerable to sewer backups.
Raw sewage runoff results in significant environmental consequences for our rivers and Lake Winnipeg. As many Manitobans can attest, sewer backups in our basements and the associated increased premiums on home insurance can be a huge problem. What’s more, these raw sewage dumps obviously affect our personal health and our recreational activities as well.
During our time in government we sought to work with the City to address this important infrastructure deficit and offered help in separating the sewer and runoff systems. Now that we’re the Opposition, we’ll continue to pressure the government to work with the City to solve this serious problem.
If you need any further information on this issue, please contact me at 204-415-1122 or email me at Jim.Maloway@YourManitoba.ca.