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Provincial election 2023: We can’t afford to ignore phosphorus pollution

For years, successive provincial governments have ignored the phosphorus pollution released by Winnipeg’s North End Water Pollution Control Centre (NEWPCC). This provincial election, join us in calling for phosphorus compliance at Winnipeg’s largest sewage treatment plant.

Excess phosphorus is the cause of harmful algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg – and NEWPCC is the single largest point source of phosphorus flowing into the lake. In 2005, the province set a phosphorus limit of 1.0 mg/L in NEWPCC’s operating licence. Almost 20 years later, NEWPCC remains non-compliant with this limit – and two provincial deadlines for compliance have been missed.

The consequences of these missed deadlines for phosphorus compliance are impossible to ignore: earlier this month, thick green slime blanketed several east-side beaches in Lake Winnipeg’s south basin. An even larger bloom has been present in the north basin since the end of July, a heart-breaking reminder of what’s at stake.

A graphic of Lake Winnipeg's shape with two large algal blooms within it.

Satellite image of algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg; ECCC EOLakeWatch

Continued delays in achieving phosphorus compliance at NEWPCC are costing Manitobans hundreds of millions of dollars. Earlier this month, an updated estimate for the plant’s new biosolids facilities – Phase 2 of a three-phase upgrade plan – was released. The projected cost is now $1.035 billion, an increase of $123 million above the 2022 estimate for the project, which itself was $360 million higher than the 2019 estimate.

Enough is enough. Manitoba’s government needs to have a costed and time-bound plan to ensure NEWPCC is brought into compliance with its phosphorus limit no later than 2030.

What we’re doing

In the leadup to Oct. 3’s election, we’ve sent out a mailer to our Manitoba members with tips on how to discuss phosphorus compliance with candidates this campaign.

We’re also reaching out to all provincial parties running candidates in this election, asking for their commitments on this important issue. We’ll be publishing the responses we receive on our website to assist voters in making an informed decision. Stay tuned!

How you can help

  • Engage with your provincial candidates. (Not sure who’s running in your area? More information is available on Elections Manitoba’s website.) Remind them that excess phosphorus is causing harmful algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg. Tell them that two decades of non-compliance is unacceptable. Explain that the longer we wait, the more it will cost.
  • Get active online. Help spread the word on social media by liking/sharing our election advocacy posts on Instagram, X (the network formally known as Twitter) or Facebook!
  • Display a lawn sign outside your home. Show candidates that you care about the future of Lake Winnipeg and expect action to protect it. (Signs are available at our downtown Winnipeg office while supplies last. Contact us for more information on pickup options.)

Phosphorus compliance at NEWPCC must be a priority of Manitoba’s next government – no more costly delays! As citizens, voters and lake-lovers, it’s now up to us to use our collective voice to push for action and accountability.

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