Windsor

Windsor flood overwhelms wastewater treatment plant

All three pumps at the Little River water treatment plant were operating at full capacity to process the record level of water coming through, but still waste had to be diverted into the river.

Even with all three pumps working at capacity, the treatment plant diverted water into the river for five days

Windsor's Little River wastewater treatment plant diverted partially treated sewage water into the Detroit River for five days during latest flooding in Windsor region. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

Windsor dumped 320-million litres of partially treated wastewater into the Detroit River after widespread flooding hit the region last week, according to figures from the city.

All three pumps at the Little River water treatment plant were operating at full capacity to process the record level of water coming through, but still waste had to be diverted into the river.

The treatment plant processes wastewater for east Windsor and all of Tecumseh. East Windsor was hit with about 90 mm of rain, while Tecumseh got pummelled with 190 mm.

Even with all three pumps working at capacity, the treatment plant diverted water into the river for five days. Typically, the plant would divert wastewater about 10 times a year with each diversion lasting about an hour.

Windsor's senior manager of pollution control, Chris Manzon said the bypass prevented further flooding.   

​"We would have to store it some place and currently that would be in the sewer systems, which would have raised the levels even higher and obviously backed up into basements even more," he told CBC News.

The last time the plant diverted partially treated water even close to that extent was back in 2010 when diversion lasted three days during another heavy rain.

The plant takes samples of all bypasses, tests the water and reports finding to the Ministry of the Environment.

Dumping the partially treated wastewater raises concerns for people like Rajesh Seth, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Windsor.

He understands why the city had to divert the water, but recognizes it could affect water quality in the river. 

"The organics that are not removed are going to the river," he said. "Microorganisms are the biggest [concern] and so in combination with other discharges [they] may have the potential for impact on beaches as well as drinking water quality."