South end sewage target missed; finish line ‘in sight’ for new plant

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A deadline to reduce pollution leaving Winnipeg’s south end sewage treatment plant has been missed.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/02/2022 (192 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A deadline to reduce pollution leaving Winnipeg’s south end sewage treatment plant has been missed.

A new report reveals a facility upgrade now underway didn’t meet a provincially set target to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen flowing out of the plant by Dec. 31, 2021. The province has ordered a major reduction in the amount of those algae-promoting nutrients in its effluent.

The previous deadline had been set for Dec. 31, 2016, before the City of Winnipeg obtained an extension.

The South End Sewage Treatment Plant, also known as the South End Water Pollution Control Centre (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“It is disturbing that we’ve missed deadlines and (had) cost overruns… This has got to get done… There are some real concerns here,” said Coun. Brian Mayes, water and waste committee chairman.

Council approved a $16.5-million increase to the south end sewage plant upgrade in May 2021, bringing the project’s total price to $352 million. The extra cash was meant to cover previous contractor delays and a spike in the cost to import materials.

The new report blames the latest delays on missed construction milestones, while also noting a COVID-19 pandemic impacted supply chain issue.

“The contractor has started the process of shipping media from (South) Korea, but is having difficulty securing shipping containers and spots on vessels. As a result, the contractor cannot provide a firm shipping schedule as the current global shipping market is very volatile,” the city report notes.

The report says 38 containers of integrated fixed film activated sludge have been received so far, with about 44 more still to be shipped. City spokeswoman Lisa Marquardson said the delay affects synthetic material that’s part of a biological wastewater treatment process.

However, the report notes an engineer has determined work can begin before all the shipments come in, which should lessen the impact.

The city expects to have the entire project completed by Jan. 31, 2023, though it should achieve the pollution reduction targets by July 2022, Marquardson said in an emailed statement.

She said many issues with apparent contractor delays have also “been resolved.”

Amid billions of dollars of sewage work that is also needed to upgrade the north end sewage treatment plant and reduce combined sewer overflows, Mayes said he is glad to see the south end environmental target should be achieved this year.

“The finish line is in sight, it’s just a few months further down,” he said.

Keeping the project to its latest timeline is key to avoiding further cost hikes, the head of council’s finance committee said Tuesday.

“We really want to see these issues resolved and the project get back on schedule, or a revised schedule that sees the project completed as soon as possible. There are always costs associated with delays,” said Coun. Scott Gillingham.

Meanwhile, pandemic pressures have created new costs for the $1.854-billion north end sewage treatment plant upgrade, a separate report notes.

Delivery delays, decreased labour efficiency due to social distancing, requirements for personal protective equipment, and increased cleaning at the construction site added about $867,000 to the project’s price, which drops to $647,000 after other savings are factored in.

The city confirmed the project’s price won’t rise, as those costs will be covered through a contingency fund.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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Updated on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 8:39 AM CST: Adds photo

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