'It's frustrating': Winnipeg community concerned about sewage flowing into river
WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg community is raising concerns over spilled sewage, after taking it upon themselves to get a sample of runoff water going into the Assiniboine River tested.
Chris Beauvilain has been living along the Assiniboine River in Wolseley for a decade. This year, he says the community came together to enjoy the river like never before.
"Many of us all throughout the neighbourhood were out there every day and every night. It was sort of the lifeblood throughout this crazy year," said Beauvilain.
But on Feb. 22, runoff from a combined sewer overflow ruined the community’s skating trails. Raw sewage and garbage froze into the ice, with the city blaming excessive snowmelt for the overflow.
Beauvilain and a group of concerned neighbours pooled together to test some water samples he collected.
"I took them into a lab that does a lot of water testing, the ALS lab in Winnipeg. I was just curious," said Beauvilain. "It's no secret that there's sewage in these outflows. The city is pretty transparent about that."
The results were less than desirable, containing high amounts of E. coli and fecal coliform, bacteria which Health Canada says can be harmful if ingested.
"Drinking water is less than one part or count. Primary, which is for swimming, should not be sampled at over 200, and you should never go above 400. Our sample maxed out their count at 24,200," explained Beauvilain.
In a statement to CTV News, the City of Winnipeg said:
"The city is committed to protecting the long-term health of our environment by working towards a plan to reduce the effects of CSOs on our rivers and lakes in an environmentally sound, sustainable, and cost-effective manner. The first phase of our CSO master plan is designed to take the current sewer system from collecting about 74 percent of overflow volume and treating it, to collecting and treating 85 percent of overflow volume by 2045."
But Beauvilain claims the plan relies heavily on external funding and doesn't address the river's importance.
"To see that that is our approach to our river is frustrating," he said. "To make it worse, when you read the master plan, you see they state this is not a recreational waterway. So they have no intent to make this a recreational waterway."
Beauvilain and fellow community members are now calling for more action.
"I think it's more of a question of priorities. I'm not expecting some sort of magic fix. I know this is going to take several years," said Beauvilain. "But if we can allocate billions of dollars over the next 20-30 years for roads, I think we could probably do a better approach to our rivers."
The City of Winnipeg said prior to 2013; overflows were estimated to occur 22 times on average from each outfall. In 2019, the average number of overflows from each outfall was 15.