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  • Jim Mosher

Bring pressure to bear on Winnipeg to complete north-end sewage plant project: Beach’s Carry



The clock has been clicking too long on the completion on upgrades to Winnipeg’s north end sewage treatment plant, says Winnipeg Beach Coun. Daryl Carry. Only early-stage design elements related to the ugrades of the North Main St. plant have been completed.


That represents just two per cent of the overall project work, records show.


Based on Winnipeg’s draft 2019 budget, completion of the North End Pollution Control Centre (NEWPCC) may be a decade away.


Carry says as far as he can tell money for NEWPCC is funnelled to reserves.


That seems to be the case. The city's preliminary 2019 budget notes grants and transfers amount to $155.985 million, up from $83.323 million expended in 2018. The projected spending increase of $77.74 million, the city says in one of its draft budget documents, is "primarily due to a one-time transfer to the Environmental Projects Reserve to support NEWPCC upgrade capital project, transfer to fund Land Drainage partial program, and increases in salaries and tipping fees, offset by a decrease to the utility dividend."


“Regarding the north-end sewage treatment information, there’s constantly delays, delays,” Carry said during a regular council meeting March 13. He suggested council prepare a resolution for the Association of Manitoba Municipalities “to ask the province to put some pressure on Winnipeg to speed things up.”


The Manitoba Clean Environment Commission recommended in 2009 that Winnipeg address overflows of its combined sewer and drainage system that leads to untreated sewage going into the Red River from its north-end plant. Further, the commission recommended that sewage treatment processes be in place to ensure reduced levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia in effluent discharged into the river.


The initial cost of the recommended upgrades was estimated at $795.59 million. In a recent update, the water wastewater department raised the upper limit of the cost of NEWPCC to $1.6 billion, though it believes a $1.4 billion goal is attainable.


Whatever the price tag, completion of the important project is years away. Design and other initial elements of the upgrade project have been completed, But, according a document from the Water and Wastewater Dept., the project has completed just two per cent of the work. The Pallister government has given the city until 2045 to incorporate reuse of biosolids created during normal sewage treatment processes.


Coun. Carry’s frustration is understandable particularly because Winnipeg Beach and other lake-rimming communities believe the removal of nutrients from wastewater effluent is a significant part of reducing the overall impact of the nutrient overloading of the lake, which leads to sometimes toxic cyanobacterial (blue-green algae) blooms.

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“There’s always delays of upgrades,” the veteran Beach councillor continued. “Every year, they talk about doing more work, and they never have the money. It goes up several millions of dollars every year. It seems there’s no urgency. There are all these groups, save the lake and conservation’s doing its part. [We’ve got] Lake Friendly and the Red River Basin Commission and hug-the-lake group — or whatever. Nothing’s happening.”


“There’s no pressure. There’s no penalty, it seems. We know when we were doing our’s [upgrading the town's sewage lagoon], if we didn’t do it there was a penalty there. I don’t know why Winnipeg is different. There’s no urgency from the province to put pressure on Winnipeg to move this along quickly.”


Mayor Tony Pimentel says the South Basin Mayors and Reeves, which is comprised of the leaders of municipalities that rim Lake Winnipeg, met two years ago with representatives from the City of Winnipeg.


“We went to them and said, ‘Listen: If you need our support to get funding from the government, we’re prepared to support you guys in any way so you can get the money that you need,” Mayor Pimentel said.


Carry said funds that could be used on the North End Wastewater Pollution Control Centre, aka north-end sewage treatment plant, seem “to be going back into reserves.”

“We’ll be talking about this 10 years from now, if nothing is done soon.”


Town council will bring forward a resolution on the matter to AMM’s district meeting April 10 — seeking support from other municipalities to get a clear sense of when the project will be completed.


It has yet to meet new standards for sewage treatment that would reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus it releases after sewage treatment. That treated sewage (effluent) is released into the nearby Red River. Untreated sewage is released into the river during Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).


The Winnipeg sewage treatment plant is showing its age and needs significant investment to upgrade its system to separate its discharges of effluent and stormwater. During high rainfalls, the stormwater system and untreated sewage is released to nearby Red River, again as part of the CSOs.



The cost for the upgrades of the north-end wastewater treatment plant, above, was originally estimated at $795 million. The city’s recent updated cost projection puts the price tag at $1.6 billion, though its engineers believe the cost can be held to $1.4 billion.

— Source winnipeg.ca


PERSPECTIVE


LOOKING BACK 10 YEARS


March 3, 2009: Clean Environment Commission report on nutrient reduction and biosolid reuse, among other things released.


The then-NDP government issued the following releases:


March 26, 2009: The Manitoba government is enhancing investments in wastewater treatment upgrades province-wide with a $385-million commitment for water and wastewater projects across the province including a $235-million provincial one-third commitment for the upgrade of all three wastewater treatment plants in Winnipeg.


In 2003, the CEC recommended the province ensure Winnipeg’s wastewater treatment system will treat ammonia, a toxic form of nitrogen, and remove phosphorus and nitrogen to improve water quality.


March 26, 2009: “The CEC reaffirmed the need to reduce as much phosphorus as possible from City of Winnipeg’s three wastewater treatment facilities, since phosphorus is the leading contributor to blue-green algae growth in Lake Winnipeg. The CEC further indicates a critical need to reduce ammonia and nitrogen because they are toxic to fish and degrade water quality. With the province’s help, the city will continue on its present course of action and will have all three of its waste-water treatment facilities upgraded by 2014,” said then-Conservation Minister Stan Struthers.


JANUARY 2019 UPDATE: North End Wastewater Pollution Control Centre


HIGHLIGHTS OF THE JAN. 9 REPORT


The City received a conceptual design project cost estimate from the design consultant indicating higher costs than the currently approved budget of $795.59 million (Class 5 estimate, range $397.8 million to $1.59 billion). The cost of the NEWPCC Biological Nutrient Removal Upgrade project is estimated to be $1.4 billion. There could be a risk to the schedule due to the budget.


In the Regulator’s Licence alteration Letter dated December 30, 2014, the project completion date was specified as December 2019. However, the Regulator was notified on June 23, 2016 [after the Palmister came to power] that the project schedule was not achievable. Manitoba Sustainable Development acknowledged receipt of this notice on August 16, 2016 and indicated they had “no concerns at this time.” Regular schedule updates and progress reports continue to be submitted to MB Sustainable Development on a quarterly basis.

In the second quarter of 2017, the Department reported that an updated conceptual design project cost estimate was received from the design consultant. This new information indicated costs over a billion dollars,


RISKS AND RISK MITIGATION STRATEGIES


There are risks associated with the cost and schedule for a project that is this large and complex especially at the early stages. In addition, the final bid amounts for projects are unknown until the project agreement is finalized with the Design Builder.


The Adopted Budget to date, $795.59 million, is based on a Class 5 cost estimate which has an Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) expected accuracy range of -50% and + 100% or $397.80 million to $1,591.18 million. However, the project cost is estimated to be $1.4 billion. There could be a risk to the schedule due to the budget constraint.


FEB. 11, 2019: Minutes – Standing Policy Committee on Finance

Item No. 2 North End Water Pollution Control Centre (NEWPCC) Biological Nutrient Removal/Upgrade


STANDING COMMITTEE DECISION:


The Standing Policy Committee on Finance concurred in the recommendation of the Winnipeg Public Service and received as information the financial status of the North End Sewage Treatment Plant (NEWPCC) Biological Nutrient Removal Upgrade, as contained in this report.


The standing policy committee on finance’s concurrence relates to the Jan. 9, 2019 Administrative Report from the Water and Waste Dept. regarding the North End Sewage Treatment Plant (NEWPCC) Biological Nutrient Removal Upgrade.