This past weekend’s rainstorm resulted in flooded basements throughout Winnipeg, but the city says it could have been much worse.
Municipal officials said 20-year-high flows meant Winnipeg had to turn off pumps at its south end treatment plant, causing about 59 million litres of raw sewage to be dumped into the Red River.
This was a necessary move, the city says, to prevent even more basements from backing up, and to help avoid public health risks.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), a longtime proponent of updates to the city’s sewer system, told 680 CJOB’s The Start that until Winnipeg’s sewer system is modernized, this type of situation could keep happening.
Mayes, who said the topic will be raised at next week’s water committee meeting, wants to see the city’s target date for a revamped sewage system moved up — by about 50 years.
Mayes said the current plan is, shockingly, looking at a 2095 end date. Mayes is hoping it can be done by the early 2040s.
“The combined sewage system has been the culprit a number of times, and that’s been a focus of mine over the last couple of years — trying to get some more money put toward that,” he said.
“I hate to say I’m the guy trying to speed things up to get it done by 2042, but I am the guy trying to speed things up to get it done by 2042.
“We’ve got to get this back on track, or we’re going to keep having these conversations. I’ll be having them with my sons, and that’s frightening, environmentally.”
Mayes said he is hopeful the city can work with its provincial and federal partners to get more annual funding for the project so Winnipeggers aren’t waiting until the turn of the century for an improved sewage system.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “In 2095, I’ll be dead. The city’s plan is mind-blowing.
“When I first ran (for council) in 2011, nobody talked about sewer issues — nobody — but now you get it at the door. I think people want us to take action and the political will should be there.”
The pumps at the treatment plant, which were off for almost two full days, resumed operation Monday morning.
Mayes’ colleague on council, Scott Gillingham (St. James), said the city has added money to the sewer project, but agreed that it’ll take much more to solve the problems.
“Winnipeg is an older city, and there’s a lot of combined sewers that still exist,” Gillingham told 680 CJOB.
“To his credit, Coun. Brian Mayes has been one of the strongest advocates for investing more money in separating the sewers. In this last budget, we added $60 million over the next four years to get at that work faster.
“It’s going to be a long process. If provincial and federal governments would come to the table on that, that work could be accomplished quicker.”
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