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Winnipeg, Manitoba to undergo massive wastewater treatment system upgrades

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by Peter Kenter

The City of Winnipeg has announced a massive upgrade to its wastewater treatment system in consultation with Veolia Canada.
South End Water Pollution Control Centre in Winnipeg Manitoba
South End Water Pollution Control Centre in Winnipeg Manitoba

The City of Winnipeg has announced a massive upgrade to its wastewater treatment system in consultation with Veolia Canada.

The city has announced a budget of about $750 million over six years for work on its North End Water Pollution Control Centre and its South End Water Pollution Control Centre, in addition to the construction of a new biosolids drying plant.

The work is part of ongoing improvement to the city’s sewage system that has been underway in recent years.

The city completed a $47 million improvement project to its West End Water Pollution Control Centre in 2007.

The work will be completed as part of a 30-year consulting contract signed with Veolia Canada.

Under the agreement, the city will retain ownership of all assets, while Veolia Canada will provide advice and expertise regarding the operation and maintenance of the new facilities.

Between four and 15 Veolia staff members will work alongside City of Winnipeg staff over the next three decades.

The scope of the agreement includes the three major capital projects mandated by provincial licensing requirements, all sewage treatment facility operations and annual capital maintenance.

Compensation for the private operator will be partially based on realizing savings beyond projected operating and capital budgets, with both the city and the operator sharing in the savings.

Veolia earnings will be withheld to offset any cost overruns or repairs until such time as the earnings grow above an agreed-on level.

Additional compensation is available to the company for meeting other non-financial targets, including worker safety, greenhouse gas emission control and waste reduction.

The agreement specifically excludes the city’s supply, treatment and distribution of drinking water, sewage collection and stormwater drainage system.

City council will continue to vote each year to approve all capital and operating expenditures.

The details of the Veolia deal constituted a major issue in the 2010 Winnipeg election, with Mayor Sam Katz championing the Veolia consulting contract.

The rationale for the facility upgrades revolves largely around the removal of biosolids from the treatment plants.

“Over the years we’ve been applying biosolids to agricultural land throughout the entire year,” said Winnipeg Water and Waste Department director Barry McBride.

“However, concerns about nitrogen runoff during spring thaw means that we weren’t allowed to continue winter spreading.”

The North End facility produced 12,572 dry tonnes of mechanically dewatered biosolids in 2010.

However, about half of the material wound up in landfill, due to the legislation banning winter spreading of biosolids sludge.

The new biosolids plant will be used to convert treated sewage into either compost or agricultural fertilizer and may also be converted to pellets that can be burned to generate electricity.

Work on the South End building will total about $200 million, while work on the North End building is budgeted at around $400 million.

In both cases, the expansion will improve the nutrient-removal capabilities of the plants.

Construction of an entirely new biosolids heat drying plant is estimated at $150 million.

The first order of business will be the development of an asset-management plan, which will document the maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement requirements at the facilities, to be updated annually.

McBride said that the project costs will be financed by sewer rate increases and possibly defrayed by some provincial government funding.

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