Hail storm caused sewage leak into Red River after bypass system couldn’t keep up

A sewage spill near the Fort Garry Bridge that started after last week’s hail storm continued intermittently over the weekend.

The city’s website shows more than 5.5 million litres of diluted wastewater spilled into the Red River Thursday evening. 

A bypass system, set up after a massive leak in February, couldn’t keep up with the flow. More spills were reported on Friday and Saturday.

“The bypass isn’t quite fully operational, yet not fully functional,” said Coun. Brian Mayes, chair of the water and waste committee.

“Our staff people said they were really hoping not to have a big rainstorm until June — that didn’t work out. But also they said given the volume that came down, even if had that occurred in July … there might have been some discharge into the river.”    

Last week’s hail storm caused a sewage spill at the same location as a massive leak into the Red River earlier this year. That leak led to nearly 230 million litres of sewage spilling into the river.

A coalition of First Nations governments filed a lawsuit against the city over the spill.

Mayes wants the city to explore the idea of using underground storage tunnels to cut down on sewage overflows. The water and waste committee passed a motion earlier this month ordering city staff to study the proposal and report back in June.

Other cities — including Ottawa and Paris, France — have used underground tunnels to store excess sewage diluted with street runoff, Mayes said. The purpose of the tunnels is to hold the sewage until the regular sewer system has capacity, and then pump it along to the treatment plant.

“Is that the right answer for Winnipeg? Well, it’s not crazy. Other cities do it and we do have a plan for one on Taché [Avenue] sometime in the next couple of decades. So it’s feasible here.”

A full report on how much was released into the Red River following Thursday’s storm, and the subsequent spills over the weekend, will be posed on Tuesday.