Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/8/2016 (2135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The city could prevent untreated sewage from overflowing into the Red and Assiniboine rivers due to power outages – over six million litres did this summer alone – but any solution would cost in the "millions and millions" of dollars, the city’s manager of waste and water services said.
At present, only a "small handful" of Winnipeg’s lift stations in combined sewage/water lines have generators, according to manager Chris Carroll. Most don’t, meaning that during power outages, untreated waste in some cases is diverted into the rivers to avoid backing up into residential basements.
In August and July, when Winnipeg was hit with both severe rain storms and power outages, approximately 6.1 million litres of sewage spilled into the rivers. That amount equals a volume greater than two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Carroll said the city could install generators in all lift stations, but the cost would need to rival the benefits.
"It would be expensive," Carroll said. "It would be well into the millions and millions of dollars. These generators would be the size of small cars.
"As a city we would say, ‘Where is our money best spent? What are the risks to public health and property? Where do we want to focus our efforts?’", he added. "It’s not a black and white-type thing.
"Like all businesses, we have budgets and we try to make the best use of those funds for the best benefit."
Carroll said the city has been concentrating on developing a long-term program to severely cut or eliminate the amount of sewage that flows into the rivers.
"We have been focusing our efforts on the global strategy," he said, adding that "we've demonstrated in the past that there's minimal health risks with the (current) volumes that the city discharges."
Winnipeg city councillor Brian Mayes, who chairs the Water and Waste Committee, acknowledged the issue of power outages leading to untreated sewage spills, but noted that the city is now in the process of establishing a long-term water and sewer strategy that will include four different options.
"Of those four options, the cheapest is $1 billion," he said. The highest is $4 billion.
"This is a huge issue, we just don’t see it (like potholes)," Mayes added, of the city’s sewer and water infrastructure. "The more we spend, the less (sewage) will go in (the rivers)….but what’s the right balance? It’s a huge financial commitment."
City has submitted a preliminary proposal for the province's approval, under the Environment Act licence, which includes the four options.
"So we’re taking into account all aspects of the project and we’ll be making that decision on which option they’ll be going forward with," said Siobhan Burland Ross, manager of the municipal and industrial approval section of the provincial department of Sustainable Development. "The preliminary proposal set the stage, here’s some options, here’s some things we can do, how much it’s going to cost, this is what we recommend working toward, and then the master plan gets into a little more detail of what they’re going to do and when."
The licence requires the city to submit a master plan by 2017 and implementation by 2030.
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.