Not content with the compromise motion he helped craft at the committee level last week that imposed strict timelines for the reduction of phosphorus emissions at the north end sewage treatment plant, Coun. Kevin Klein says he wants the province to review the City of Winnipeg’s actions.
Klein appeared at executive policy committee Tuesday in support of the motion, but criticized the group for failing to act sooner, and said the compromise still isn’t good enough.
He later told reporters he’ll be writing Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires.
"I want the province to come in now and look at this because we’re still staying, with my motion, that you have to start (phosphorus reduction) testing within 14 months. It doesn’t really say when we’re going to address the problem... It’s not definitive," Klein said, adding he believes city officials are cherry-picking recommendations from a consultant’s report to justify delaying any testing at the plant until late 2022 or early 2023.
Members of EPC unanimously endorsed the compromise motion, and recommended council approve it.
The water and waste department has insisted any live testing of alternative or interim measures to reduce phosphorus emissions at the north end plant be delayed until mid- or late-2022, when upgrades to the south end facility are completed.
An abundance of phosphorus in the Red River has been identified as a culprit for algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg. The north end plant is considered to be the largest, single-point contributor (about five per cent of all emissions).
The city is facing a Dec. 31 deadline to reduce emissions of phosphorus from its north end sewage treatment plant to one milligram per litre from the current level of 3.54 mg/L.
The city has approved a $408-million project to upgrade the plant power supply and headworks facilities, but two subsequent projects (biosolid and nutrient removal) have a combined price tag of $1.38 billion and have not yet been approved.
In July, the water and waste department asked the provincial government for a two-year delay to allow it to determine what interim measures could be put in place ahead of the final two projects being completed.
However, the International Institute of Sustainable Development and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation said city hall could implement an interim solution immediately, at an initial cost of $5 million and annual operating costs of $2 million.
Water and waste said a consultant’s report found the IISD/LWF proposal wouldn’t work and could jeopardize the north end plant operations.
However, Klein said the consultant’s report was full of contradictory statements but it concluded the interim proposal could be rolled out on an incremental basis.
"I would like the province to look at the consultant’s report and meet with (the IISD and LWF) and independently come up with the best plan for Lake Winnipeg," Klein said. "We’re getting conflicting reports, so it is smart and required for us to do due diligence."
Klein’s presentation to EPC was met with a heavy criticism from committee members, who accused him of being unprepared and undermining the department’s efforts with his statements.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.