North End sewage-treatment project now pegged at more than $1B

Improvement to Winnipeg's largest sewage-treatment plant are now expected to cost the city more than $1 billion, thanks to a new design that raises the latest project estimate by $204 million.

$204M cost hike based on new detailed design for project ordered up in 2003

The cost of upgrading Winnipeg's North End Water Pollution Control Centre is estimated to be more than $1 billion. (CBC News)

Improvement to Winnipeg's largest sewage-treatment plant are now expected to cost the city more than $1 billion, thanks to a new design that raises the latest project estimate by $204 million.

The city has been planning upgrades at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre, the largest of Winnipeg's three sewage-treatment plants, since 2003, when the province ordered the city to clean up the effluent it sends into the Red River.

The main objective of the North End upgrades is to remove more phosphorus and nitrogen from the plant's effluent in an effort to reduce the potential for algae blooms in Lake Winnipeg. It also involves the ability to treat sewage during wet weather, maximize the reuse of nutrients, the construction of a new plant to treat sludge from all three sewage-treatment plants and replacement of old components.

The upgraded plant is expected to accommodate Winnipeg's sewage-treatment needs through 2037 and allow for for future upgrades for another 30 years after that.

The vast scope of the project led to a budget estimate of $796 million in 2016. A new report to council's finance committee states this is now out of date thanks to a new and more detailed conceptual design.

"On a preliminary basis, this new information is indicating an increase in the estimated project cost to over $1 billion," water and waste engineering manager Geoff Patton writes in the report, which will come before council's finance committee on Sept. 15.

"Further analysis of the consultant information is currently being carried out and will be reported on in a future report. An updated cost estimate  is expected, after the preliminary design phase is completed, in July 2018."

The city expects to debt-finance most of the project. While the city expects the provincial government to devote $195 million to the North End sewage-treatment plant improvements, the federal government has not committed any money for the project.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Before joining CBC Manitoba, Bartley Kives spent most of his career in journalism at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.