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Sewage update: Winnipeg city council moves closer to phosphorus compliance at north end plant

On July 21, city council passed two important motions that put us on the path towards accelerated phosphorus compliance at Winnipeg’s largest sewage treatment plant.

Improved interim solution gets approval

Winnipeg’s city council approved funding for an updated plan for interim phosphorus removal at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre (NEWPCC). This plan improves on the city’s initial design in order to maximize phosphorus removal while reducing the amount of sludge produced as a by-product.

LWF strongly supports this plan since it will lead to tangible, measurable phosphorus reduction. (You can read Executive Director Alexis Kanu’s submission to the Standing Policy Committee on Water and Waste, Riverbank Management and the Environment on our Resources for Citizens webpage.)

The revised interim solution will cost $17 million, and is anticipated to be up and running by August 2023 – however, it alone will not be enough to meet the 1 mg/L phosphorus limit of NEWPCC’s provincial operating licence.

To achieve phosphorus compliance as soon as possible, the city must integrate the interim solution into the upcoming design and construction of the Phase 2 Biosolids Facilities Project, which has been identified as the city’s number one infrastructure priority.

Enhanced design for Phase 2 biosolids project now on the table

At the July meeting, council also approved a public service report presenting a new enhanced preliminary design for the biosolids project. Included in the revised scope is additional biosolids digestor capacity.

Again, LWF strongly supports this plan. Increased digester capacity will enable the city to achieve phosphorus compliance much sooner and at much reduced cost, will reduce wet-weather sewage spills like those we saw almost weekly this past spring, and enable continued city growth.

While it comes with additional costs, building additional digester capacity now – rather than waiting till 2037 as originally planned – will ultimately save money in the long-run. The most expensive element of this treatment plant upgrade has always been time; the longer we wait to implement upgrades, the more expensive they become.

City council voted to refer the new cost estimate for this project to the 2024-27 multi-year budget process – making it a critical priority for Winnipeg’s next city council.

What’s next – and how you can help

Thank to you everyone who has joined us in advocating for phosphorus compliance at the north end sewage treatment plant. Public pressure is having an impact – but our job is not done until compliance is actually achieved.

Approving funding for the new Phase 2 biosolids project must be a top priority for Winnipeg’s new city council – which we citizens get to elect this October.

In the leadup to the vote, engage with candidates.

  • Tell them that improved sewage treatment is an urgent environmental issue about which you can deeply.
  • Ask them to commit to approving funding for the enhanced design of the Phase 2 Biosolids Facilities Project to meet the provincial phosphorus limit.
  • Remind them that continued delays are unacceptable.

Together, we can ensure Winnipeg’s political leaders and public service follow through on their commitments – and their responsibility to protect Lake Winnipeg.

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