City charged for releasing sewage into Red River over seven-week period

They’re not blaming farmers for this one

The provincial government has charged the City of Winnipeg for releasing “a large amount” of partially treated sewage into the Red River a year ago.

The release of the effluent, which had high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli, began on Oct. 7, 2011 and lasted for seven weeks. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that for four of those weeks, the facility was releasing 50 million to 60 million litres of partly treated sewage each day.

The problems began when a biological sewage treatment process at the South End Water Pollution Control Centre failed for reasons that have not been determined. However, city engineers failed to notify the province until Nov. 1. The tardy reporting prompted one of the charges laid under the Environment Act, along with two others for “releasing or allowing a pollutant to be released.”

Each charge carries a potential fine of up to $500,000, the Free Press reported.

An independent review of the incident found “a variety of deficiencies, or gaps, in city systems, protocols and infrastructure,” and has recommended numerous technical changes.

Earlier this year, the province amended the city’s Environment Act licence, requiring the South End Water Pollution Control Centre be replaced with a new state-of-the-art sewage treatment facility.  

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