‘It’s pretty embarrassing:’ Winnipeg aims to put less poop in river

3.2 million litres of raw sewage and rainfall runoff spilled into Winnipeg’s river system last month

Canoeist David Danyluk doesn’t live far from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River but he tends to spend more time paddling further afield.

That’s because he doesn’t want to risk gliding through the sewage that regularly makes its way into Winnipeg’s river system.

The sewage dumps are a black mark on the city’s reputation, said Danyluk.

“It’s pretty embarrassing. If a child fouls a pool, a buzzer rings and everyone takes off. And here, it’s a shrug from the city.”

READ MORE: One trillion litres of sewage leaked into lakes and rivers over last five years

VIDEO: Victoria’s mascot, Mr. Floatie, officially relieved of duties

Some 3.2 million litres of raw sewage and rainfall runoff spilled into Winnipeg’s river system last month but the incident was unusual only in scope.

The amount — more than an Olympic-sized swimming pool — was one of the largest spills in years, but was one of about 20 such events that occur each year.

The city is planning to spend more than $1 billion and take more than two decades to greatly reduce such spills, although they will not be completely eliminated.

Winnipeg’s problem stems from old infrastructure. About a third of the city relies on a combined sewer system — pipes that collect both raw sewage and runoff from rainfall or melting snow.

The combined water is sent to a sewage treatment plant nearly all the time, but in periods of very heavy rain it goes directly into the rivers.

They system was designed that way decades ago to avoid overwhelming the treatment plant and to reduce the likelihood of basement flooding.

The city is working on a 27-year plan to greatly reduce the number of combined sewer overflows.

It would cost $4 billion to replace all the combined sewers, so the city is relying on a variety of measures to keep the cost down.

“We’re hoping to do some work with what they call green infrastructure — you know, you repave a back alley in a certain way so that it slows the drainage of (storm) water into the system,” said Brian Mayes, a city councillor who chairs the city’s water and waste committee.

“Sewer items never really grab the public’s attention the way potholes do, or crime, but I think increasingly people are commenting on it and they’re concerned.”

The city points out that the overflow amounts are a very small fraction of the water that’s captured and treated each year.

The Lake Winnipeg Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the large body of water into which Winnipeg’s rivers flow, says the sewage-spill issue is small compared to problems such as phosphorus.

Phosphorus from sources that include wastewater can choke oxygen from lakes and promote the growth of algae blooms.

The city is also tackling that issue over the long-term by upgrading one of its major sewage treatment plants to remove phosphorus.

Danyluk agrees phosphorus is a bigger problem but he said the raw-sewage overflows should be a no-brainer.

He said politicians and the public might have made fixing the problem a higher priority long ago, if not for the fact that Winnipeg takes its drinking water from a lake 150 kilometres away in a community straddling the Ontario boundary.

“If we weren’t importing water from another province, I think we’d be a lot more concerned about our discharges.”

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

150 spoons and counting

Langley Fine Arts teacher Panagiotis Peter Sarganis showcases wooden utensil artwork at Fort Gallery

Fort Langley residents launch passionate debate over demolishing buildings

More than 40 people spoke at a meeting Monday evening

VIDEO: Langley car wash fights cancer

Non-profit Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society reports record single donation from Langley

VIDEO: Hazmat incident closes down Langley City street

One person is believed to be dead, police said

Langley chamber of commerce upset about lack of funding for SkyTrain

An uncertain future for the extension to Langley is due to the budget

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Weather Network’s anti-meat video ‘doesn’t reflect true story’: cattle ranchers

At issue is the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Wrestling legend finds his wedding dance groove in B.C.

Professional wrestler Chris Jericho posted on social media that he was in Penticton recently

Vancouver Public Library banned from Pride parade after allowing controversial speaker

Vancouver Public Library allowed Meghan Murphy to book space for an event at the library in January

Man arrested after allegedly attacking people with syringe in Burnaby mall

Police say that no one has yet to come forward with injuries consistent with needle stab wounds

Limited-stop RapidBus service to roll out in Metro Vancouver starting January 2020

TransLink announced five routes that connect 11 communities

Horgan hints at Daylight Saving Time changes after record survey response

More than 223,000 online surveys were submitted in the government’s public consultation

Most Read