Residents address sewage overflow


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The Wolseley Residents’ Association is hosting a series of community events addressing sewage overflow in the neighbourhood.

The association’s first meeting took place on April 20 and included a panel discussion followed by a community input session on combined sewer systems and what other cities are doing to tackle the issue. Subsequent meetings still need to be planned.

“It’s been an issue that’s been brewing for quite some time,” said Michelle Richard, Wolseley Residents’ Association chair of housing and urban development committee. “We thought we could lend a hand in having a community conversation to talk about the issue and see what types of community activities, interventions and ideas could be put in place to mitigate the impact of combined sewers in mature communities.”

Richard has lived in Wolseley for over 20 years. In the past two decades, she has noticed that sewage overflow has worsened, especially with several more high-profile overflows in recent years.

At the end of March, a major sewage spill dumped more than 78 million litres of diluted sewage into the Assiniboine River.

The wastewater mixed with snow melt was released into the river when a temporary sewage pump — in use while the city replaces a Portage Avenue interceptor sewer pipe — was unable to keep up with the flow. As a result, diluted sewage was released between March 16 and March 25. It was the largest overflow incident in at least five years.

“The issue seems to be at the front of everyone’s mind,” Richard said, adding that water — and especially the river — are important to the Wolseley community. “It was demonstrated over the winter with the excitement and use of the river as part of the community. It’s something that’s really important from environmental, sustainability, community and equity perspectives.”

One third of the city is on combined sewer systems, which means the combined land drainage — that captures rainwater, snow melt and wastewater — are propelled through the same pipe.

“Most of the time that’s fine, and the pipe is adequate so the combined sewer product is sent to the treatment plant,” Richard said. “However, the problem occurs when there are periods of heavy rainfall or snow. That additional volume in the combined sewer system tips over into the river.”

Within a community, sewage overflow impacts peoples’ enjoyment of the river and the environment’s health. Without a controlled discharge into the river, sewage can back up into basements and other public spaces, creating health and safety risks.

“There’s smell, and certainly nobody is going to be using the river for enjoyment, like paddling,” Richard said. “It just creates a barrier to enjoying the river, and it causes environmental impact. But there’s solutions to the problem — whether they’re community-based, preventative or looking to the City of Winnipeg to step up and be more proactive — and we want to start talking about what those solutions are.”

For more information on the Wolseley Residents’ Association, visit

Kelsey James

Kelsey James
Community Journalist

Kelsey James is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighbourhoods she still calls “home.”

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