THE City of Winnipeg may boost its spending to reduce the amount of diluted sewage that winds up in local waterways.
Late Thursday, city council voted 15-1 to refer a call to its 2022 budget process that would raise the annual investment to reduce combined sewer overflows to $45 million from $30 million. If approved during the budget process, the increase would last four years, starting in 2023.
"We’re putting untreated (diluted) human waste into the rivers… I’d be happy with a legacy of (speeding up) the pace of this (work) to reduce the flow," said Coun. Brian Mayes, water and waste committee chairman, who pushed for the change.
The overflows occur in older sewers that collect both precipitation and wastewater in a single pipe. Heavy rain or snow events can cause overflows, events that sent more than 12 billion litres of diluted sewage into the rivers in 2019.
The city’s master plan to reduce such events aims to capture 85 per cent of combined sewer overflows in an average weather year. It is currently on track to reach that goal by 2095, if no other funding comes through, despite the province setting a Dec. 31, 2045, deadline to complete the work.
Mayes (St. Vital) said the proposed increase would only speed the project up a few years, but would also send a signal to potential funding partners the city is serious about the environmental work. He’s also separately calling on the municipal government to make a formal funding request for the province and feds to contribute to the project.
Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) cast the sole vote against the plan, arguing the city should focus on the $1.8-billion upgrade to the north end sewage treatment plant, whose effluent adds more algae-promoting nutrients to Lake Winnipeg than combined sewer overflows.
"In terms of finite municipal resources, my priority is the sewage treatment plants," said Browaty.
Meanwhile, council also cast a late Thursday vote to pursue a new civic diversity policy that could create an equity branch and help skilled newcomers work in their chosen fields.
Another final vote approved a one-year amnesty program that lets homeowners declare renovations undertaken without proper permits without paying penalty fees.
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.