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Wastewater improvement projects
Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF) (Completed)

The City of Winnipeg operates three large treatment plants to treat millions of litres of wastewater that is collected through a vast network of sewer pipes from homes, businesses and industries. Sewage and other liquid wastes which make up wastewater, are processed in the plants and released as treated effluent to the Assiniboine and Red rivers, which merge and flow into Lake Winnipeg.

Our wastewater treatment systems are in place to protect public health and the freshwater environments of the local rivers and Lake Winnipeg.The City has continually upgraded the three treatment plants since they were built to keep pace with city growth and changing regulatory standards. Over the next 20 years, we will invest hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and bacteria (fecal coliform) levels in final effluent to meet the levels specified in the Provincial Environment Act licences.

The City has applied to the federal Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF) for money to help pay for a portion of the upgrade costs and has completed an environmental assessment as part of this process.

Purpose of the wastewater improvement projects

The new licences for our treatment plants require that we take immediate steps to reduce nutrient and bacteria levels in the final effluent. The licences specify compliance levels for these items and the time frame for meeting them. To meet the new levels, the three wastewater plants require significant upgrades in treatment processes.

The City has a ten year capital budget program for upgrading the treatment plants and will pay for most of the costs through revenues from sewer and water bills. There is an opportunity for the City to receive funding through the federal Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF) , along with provincial support , to help pay for part of the costs of the improvements to the wastewater plants.

As part of the CSIF application, the components of the wastewater improvement project eligible for funding require an environmental assessment report be done under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the potential environmental effects and actions required to reduce them.

The City hired TetrES Consultants Inc. to do the environmental assessment. It is completed and has been submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) for review by its environmental specialists and by the public. The Agency will accept the environmental assessment if they are satisfied it addresses any potential impacts. They may also issue conditions and, if warranted, direct funding to the projects.

Since Manitoba Conservation has already issued Environment Act licences for our wastewater treatment plants, there is no additional formal provincial approval process required for the upgrade of the three wastewater treatment plants.

The need for wastewater improvement upgrades

Upgrades to date

The City of Winnipeg has had a pollution control program for wastewater in place since the 1930s. Since that time, we have built new treatment plants and upgraded existing plants to meet the demands of a growing population and changing environmental standards. The following are highlights of the changes we have made to improve our pollution control program:

North End Water Pollution Control Centre (NEWPCC)
  • 1937 - primary treatment starts
  • 1954 - major plant expansion
  • 1965 - secondary treatment added
  • 1980 - primary treatment expansion
  • 1984 - secondary treatment expansion, conversion to pure oxygen and added computer control system
  • 1988 - sludge digesters expansion
  • 1990 - dewatering building added
  • 2006 - ultraviolet effluent disinfection added
South End Water Pollution Control Centre (SEWPCC)
  • 1974 - high-purity oxygen secondary plant constructed
  • 1993 - plant expansion
  • 1999 - ultraviolet effluent disinfection added
West End Water Pollution Control Centre (WEWPCC)
  • 1964 - lagoons (polishing ponds) commissioned
  • 1976 - mechanical plant (aeration) added
  • 1994 - new conventional secondary plant added
  • 1998 - ponds operated for effluent polishing

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Licensing background

Until 1988, the Manitoba The Clean Environment Act gave the City the responsibility for protecting water quality in the Red and Assiniboine rivers in the Winnipeg area. This meant we had the authority to control effluent discharges within the City and in an additional zone downstream of the City. Regulations within The Act required that the City monitor treated wastewater discharges (effluent) and report results to the Province of Manitoba. The Act did not require effluent discharge licences for wastewater treatment plants. The plants were operated to satisfy environmental protection guidelines set out by the Province.

The Province repealed The Clean Environment Act and introduced The Environment Act on March 31, 1988. The new act specified that all facilities in the province with effluent discharges with the potential to create environmental impacts must be licensed to operate.

In February of 1990, the City submitted licensing proposals for the three wastewater treatment plants to Manitoba's Minister of Environment in accordance with new Act. The Province indicated that final licences for the plants would be issued after a public hearing process to consider broader surface water-quality objectives. The hearings would include water quality in the Red and Assiniboine rivers within and downstream of the City of Winnipeg.

In 1992, the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) was requested to hold a public environmental review in two stages:

  1. Determine surface water quality objectives for the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and tributaries in the Winnipeg region to protect current and future uses of those waters.
  2. Review strategies, measures, and courses of action (including time frames) required to implement the recommended water quality objectives determined in the first stage.

The CEC held public hearings on the first stage of the environmental review from November 1991 until January 1992. The Commission made 14 recommendations in its June 1992 report (pdf - 2,995kb) to the Minister of Environment, which were accepted by the Province in November 1993.

Two recommendations in the report required the City to conduct site-specific studies for combined sewer overflows (CSO) and for un-ionized ammonia. These studies were to be completed by July 1997 and then considered in the second stage of the environmental review. For a number of reasons, final reports for both the CSO and the ammonia study were not completed until November 2002. The reasons included:

  • the time elapsed before the 1992 CEC recommendations were accepted by the Province
  • the complexity of the studies
  • Red River floods in 1996 and 1997 diverted resources
  • discussions with Manitoba Conservation on the best way to proceed

In 2001, the City, Manitoba Conservation and Manitoba Health began working together to develop licences for the three wastewater treatment plants. The process involved review of the CSO and ammonia studies and other surface water quality issues related to the overall pollution control program. The process focused on developing proposed control programs, which would become the basis for plant licences.

Five workshops were held between December 2001 and April 2002. Through the workshop process we identified seven priorities for action based on environmental and health protection factors. The action items, in order of priority, were:

  1. Potable water treatment plant (this was recognized as not being a wastewater issue but still a significant financial commitment by the City)
  2. Wastewater plant effluent disinfection
  3. Ammonia reduction
  4. Biosolids management
  5. Nutrient reduction
  6. Combined sewer overflow control
  7. Land drainage improvements

The City developed proposed implementation plans, which included estimated costs, timelines for responding to the priorities and the water and wastewater utility's financial capacity.

In January of 2003, the Clean Environment Commission held public hearings in response to a major discharge of untreated sewage that occurred in the fall of 2002 at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre. The hearings were held in Winnipeg from January 20-22, 2003, in Selkirk from January 27-28, 2003, and reconvened in Winnipeg from April 14-16, 2003. The City outlined a 50-year pollution-prevention plan to the CEC, which included the components of the CSIF project, to address the seven priorities. The CEC issued a report (pdf - 738kb) to the Minister of Conservation in August 2003. The twenty recommendations, which were accepted by the Minister, called for more rapid implementation of nutrient reduction and combined sewer control. Specifically, recommendations number six and ten stated:

#6 – The City of Winnipeg should be directed to plan for the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from its municipal wastewaters, and to take immediate steps in support of the nutrient reduction targets established for Lake Winnipeg. The City's nutrient removal plan should be a key element of a licence review hearing to be scheduled within two years; and

#10 – The City of Winnipeg should be directed to proceed with disinfection of wastewaters at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre without delay, and should routinely test for pathogens in all wastewater discharges.

The City has amended its long-term pollution prevention plan in consultation with the Province, including adjusting the timeline for the components included in this project.

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Regulatory history

The history of the regulatory environment for the wastewater collection and treatment system since 1977 is:

North End Water Pollution Control Center (NEWPCC):
  • March 30, 1988 – CEC Order No. 1188 (NEWPCC odour management)
  • May 12, 1989 – Alteration approved for installation of a sludge dewatering facility
  • February 26, 1990 – Environment Act Proposal submitted for the existing WPCC including the sludge dewatering facility
  • October 5, 1990 – Approval for leachate treatment
  • October 9, 1992 – Review of Odour Clauses Contained in CEC Order No. 1188
  • December 3, 1992 – NEWPCC Odour Control Program, Review of CEC Order No. 1188
  • June 1, 2005 – Manitoba Environment Act Licence No. 2684RR (UV disinfection, centrate treatment facility and WWTP upgrades)
  • February 14, 2005 – NEWPCC Centrate Design Criteria Activity
  • June 19, 2009 – Revised Manitoba Environment Act Licence No. 2684RRR
South End Water Pollution Control Center (SEWPCC):
  • March 30, 1988 – CEC Order No. 1190 (odour control program)
  • August 24, 1989 – Alteration Approval for clarifier expansion
  • February 26, 1990 – Environment Act Proposal for existing WPCC and expansion to facility
  • May 9, 1990 – Environment Act Licence No. 1363 issued for Stage 1 Plant Expansion
  • August 4, 1998 – Alteration approval for installation of ultra-violet effluent disinfection
  • August 25, 1999 – Amendments to disinfection alteration approval
  • March 3, 2006 – Manitoba Environment Act Licence No. 2716
  • June 19, 2009 – Revised Manitoba Environment Act Licence No. 2716R
West End Water Pollution Control Center (WEWPCC):
  • May 17, 1990 – Environment Act Licence No. 1370 issued to authorize construction and operation of an activated-sludge treatment facility
  • September 3, 2004 – Manitoba Environment Act Licence No 2669 for the WEWPCC and collection system
  • April 15, 2005 – Revised Manitoba Environment Act Licence No. 2669ER
  • June 19, 2009 – Revised Manitoba Environment Act Licence No. 2669ERR
  • June 17, 1977 – CEC Order No. 733 (handling procedures and soil application)
  • December 9, 1977 – CEC Order No. 733VO (monitoring, reporting and waterway designation)
  • June 16, 1981 – CEC Order No. 921 (sludge handling and storage)
  • November 18, 1981 – CEC Order No. 921VO (sludge digestion and handling procedures, odour control)
  • March 27, 1986 – CEC Order No. 1089 (odour control)
  • December 10, 1986 – CEC Order No. 1089VO (sludge handling and odour control)
  • June 14, 2000 – Environment Act Licence No. 1089ERR (under review) (pdf - 3,994kb)

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Licence limits

Manitoba Environment has issued licences, under The Environment Act for our three wastewater treatment plants. Effluent quality requirement limits for controlled wastewater parameters are shown in the following table:

Effluent North End Water Pollution Control Center (by 2014) South End Water Pollution Control Center (by 2012) West End Water Pollution Control Center (by 2008)
Total nitrogen1 (mg/L) 15 15 15
Total phosphorus1 (mg/L) 1 1 1
E. coli2 (organism/100mL) 200 200 200
Fecal coliform2 (organism/100mL) 200 200 200
Total suspended solids (mg/L) 30 30 30
Carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (mg/L) 25 25 25


Centrate North End Water Pollution Control Center (by 2008) South End Water Pollution Control Center West End Water Pollution Control Center
Total phosphorus (kg/d) 119 3 n/a - trucked to NEWPCC n/a - trucked to NEWPCC
Total nitrogen (kg/d) 838 4 n/a - trucked to NEWPCC n/a - trucked to NEWPCC

1 30-day rolling average
2 30-day rolling geometric mean
3 Total phosphorus load not to exceed 119 kilograms per day as determined by the 30-day rolling average
4 Total nitrogen load removed is less than 838 kilograms per day as determined by the 30-day rolling average

Wastewater upgrades project overview

WWPCC mapWe are upgrading our wastewater treatment plants to comply with the terms and conditions specified in the Environment Act licences.

In the short term, the upgrades will improve effluent quality to meet the interim City-wide reduction targets of 10% for phosphorus and 13% for nitrogen. The effluent disinfection, nutrient and ammonia control meets Provincial "pre-1970" water quality objectives for the Red River, Assiniboine River and Lake Winnipeg.

Based on long term growth projections, the upgrades to our treatment plants and processes will increase the capacity of the wastewater system to handle additional waste flows from a growing population and industrial sector until at least the year 2031.

Construction activities

As the upgrades to the wastewater plants begin, people who live near or travel past one of the plants may notice construction activity. The impacts of construction can include increased traffic to and from the site, heavy equipment moving about, noise and dust. We will manage these activities to prevent or minimize their impact on community activities, local residents, businesses and the environment.

Our practice for construction projects is to specify conditions for work-site management in the contract. Conditions would include traffic control plans, protocols for heavy equipment on-site, safety, hours of work and emergency plans to deal with environmental incidents and accidents. In addition, we may also require inspections, monitoring, activity and traffic scheduling, surface runoff control, dust control, refuelling practices, protocols to prevent leaks or spills and drip trays for equipment.

We will continue to provide wastewater services, including plant operations, at all times during construction.

Water pollution control centre project upgrades:

Overview of wastewater program Legend
Application for CSIF


Committed with no CSIF


Closely linked to CSIF project


Committed with planning of options still ongoing


Facility Existing treatment Future upgrades
West End Water Pollution Control Centre
  1. Primary treatment
  2. Secondary treatment
  3. Polishing pond
    - seasonal disinfection
    - seasonal nutrient reduction

Nutrient control
- biological nutrient removal

Ultraviolet disinfection
- year round

South End Water Pollution Control Centre
  1. Primary treatment
  2. Secondary treatment
  3. Ultraviolet disinfection
    - seasonal

Nutrient control
- biological nutrient removal

Inflow and infiltration control plan

Expansion - wet weather flow

Ultraviolet disinfection
- year round

Other related upgrades

North End Water Pollution Control Centre
  1. Primary treatment
  2. Secondary treatment

Centrate treatment
- nitrogen and phosphorus reduction

Nutrient control
- biological nutrient removal

Ultraviolet disinfection
- year round (not eligible for CSIF)

Wet weather flow treatment
- combined sewer overflow program


Other programs Existing treatment Future upgrades
Combined sewer overflow
  1. Interception
    > 40% of wet weather flow

Combined sewer overflow control program
- storage, transport to water pollution control centres
- primary treatment and disinfection

  1. Digestion
  2. Dewatering
  3. Land application

Range of options to meet future criteria

Environmental benefits of wastewater treatment upgrades

The City of Winnipeg has put in place a plan to upgrade wastewater treatment to improve effluent disinfection and reduce nutrients to meet the levels specified in the Environment Act licences. The licences set our treatment levels to protect public health and the freshwater environments of the local rivers and Lake Winnipeg.

  • To protect public health, limits in wastewater effluent for pathogens such as fecal coliform and E. coli. have been set. Reducing pathogens lowers the risk of contracting gastrointestinal illness by people that use the local rivers for recreational purposes.
  • To protect aquatic life from the potentially harmful effects of un-ionized ammonia, effluent ammonia limits have been set for ammonia concentration, water temperature, and pH based on the Manitoba Surface Water Quality Standards Objectives and Guidelines.
  • To protect water habitats from the effects of nutrient enrichment, nitrogen and phosphorus limits for effluent have been set. Excessive nutrient enrichment causes water quality deterioration and potentially large algae blooms.

Benefits of water pollution control centre upgrades

The City of Winnipeg currently contributes 4.2% of the total nitrogen load and 6.6% of the total phosphorus load to Lake Winnipeg. As the tables below show, after the overall City nutrient-reduction program reduction is complete:

  • nitrogen loads will be lowered by 1,708 tonnes per year or about 2.2% and
  • phosphorus loads will be lowered by 292 tonnes per year or about 2.4%

Detailed information on the benefits of upgrades for each of our three treatment plants is also available:

Summary of projected City of Winnipeg annual load reductions to Lake Winnipeg resulting from nutrient removal
  Nitrogen Phosphorus
City reductions Target date Tonnes % of City load % of total load Tonnes % of City load % of total load
Provincial interim objectives 2007 460 13 0.5 46 10 0.7
CSIF project reduction 2012 673 19 0.8 105.5 23 1.5
Overall City program reduction 2014 1708 47 2.0 292.5 65 4.3
Current and projected annual Lake Winnipeg load contributions
<10 gallon aquarium/tr>
Source1 Nitrogen Phosphorus
Tonnes % of total Tonnes % of total
Upstream of Manitoba
  - United States (Red and Souris rivers) 20,100 21.0 2,700 34.0
  - Saskatchewan and Alberta (Saskatchewan and Assiniboine rivers) 8,300 8.7 400 5.0
  - Ontario (East side and Winnipeg River) 20,500 21.4 1,100 13.8
Manitoba sources
  - Point sources outside of Winnipeg 1,400 1.5 300 3.8
  - Estimated natural background 18,100 18.9 1,300 16.4
  - Agriculture 5,100 5.3 1,200 15.1
  - Atmospheric load 27,400 28.6 500 6.3
Subtotal without City of Winnipeg 92,300 96.2 7,500 94.3
City of Winnipeg2 3,618 3.8 450 5.7
Current totals 95,918 100.0 7,950 100.0
Projected after overall City program reduction
Subtotal without City of Winnipeg 83,054 97.8 6,402 97.6
City of Winnipeg after reductions3 1,910 2.2 158 2.4
Projected totals 84,964 100.0 6,560 100.0

1 Lake Winnipeg loads from Manitoba Water Stewardship Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Report - Decemeber 2006
2 Updated data based on detailled monitoring done by the City of Winnipeg
3 Includes urban wet weather sources.

Last updated: October 18, 2018

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