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Province rips city for slow progress on crucial sewage plant upgrades

The province has told the city to complete a nutrient-removal facility at the South End Water Pollution Centre by the end of 2016.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES

The province has told the city to complete a nutrient-removal facility at the South End Water Pollution Centre by the end of 2016.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2015 (1327 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba has told Winnipeg to stop dawdling on a $335-million sewage-treatment upgrade, displaying a lack of patience with the pace of city progress on environmental improvements ordered a decade ago.

In a letter Thursday, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship told the city's water and waste department to finish a long-planned nutrient-removal facility at the South End Water Pollution Control Centre by the end of 2016.

This facility would remove most of the phosphorus and nitrogen from the south end plant's effluent, which enters the Red River and winds up in Lake Winnipeg. The city originally was expected to finish the job in 2012.

After missing the initial target and several subsequent deadlines, the city planned to finish the facility by the end of 2018, according to this year's budget. The city then asked the province for permission for the delay.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2015 (1327 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba has told Winnipeg to stop dawdling on a $335-million sewage-treatment upgrade, displaying a lack of patience with the pace of city progress on environmental improvements ordered a decade ago.

In a letter Thursday, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship told the city's water and waste department to finish a long-planned nutrient-removal facility at the South End Water Pollution Control Centre by the end of 2016.

This facility would remove most of the phosphorus and nitrogen from the south end plant's effluent, which enters the Red River and winds up in Lake Winnipeg. The city originally was expected to finish the job in 2012.

After missing the initial target and several subsequent deadlines, the city planned to finish the facility by the end of 2018, according to this year's budget. The city then asked the province for permission for the delay.

The province's environmental stewardship division rejected that request and gave the city until the end of 2016 to comply with its environmental licence.

Division director Tracey Braun told the city to submit plans on how it intends to complete the work — and issue a progress report every three months, beginning Dec. 31 of this year.

The city was told to consult with the Clean Environment Commission, which originally advised the city to undertake billions worth of sewage-treatment upgrades in 2003.

The city is also behind on plans to complete a $569-million nutrient-removal facility and a $274-million biosolids-disposal plant at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre.

For now, the province is demanding the speedy conclusion of the south end upgrades, said Municipal Government Minister Drew Caldwell.

"There's been a lot of delays on this project. We have had a very aggressive mandate around nutrient loading on Lake Winnipeg," Caldwell said Thursday.

Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen promote the growth of algae, blooms of which diminish water quality and then deprive Lake Winnipeg of oxygen. Winnipeg is responsible for five per cent of the total phosphorus loading into the lake and four per cent of the nitrogen.

Nonetheless, Caldwell said the Manitoba capital must set an example for communities scattered across the vast Lake Winnipeg basin, which extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Ontario-Minnesota boundary waters. "We have to set a high bar," he said.

It's unclear whether the city has done enough planning and engineering to complete the south end nutrient-removal project by the end of 2016.

City spokeswoman Lisa Fraser said the city will give the province the information it requested, beginning with the Dec. 31 deadline for the first quarterly progress report.

"In the meantime, design and construction activities for the upgrade and expansion of the south end sewage-treatment plant continue unabated," she said in a statement.

The provincial directive appeared to catch city hall off guard at a time some members of council are trying to hammer out Winnipeg's 2016 budget.

Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Marty Morantz, council's finance chairman, said he needed more information before he could comment. St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, who is chairman of council's new water and waste, riverbank and environment committee, also declined to comment.

In the past, some members of council have complained the province has failed to follow up its environmental order with cash to help the city make sewage-treatment improvements.

In return, the Selinger government has complained the city diverts some of the cash it collects from water and sewer bills into general revenue.

This year, the city took a $31-million dividend from water and sewer revenue, according to budget documents. Another dividend is expected in 2016.

 

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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