Winnipeg grapples with sewage spill into Red River, urges water conservation amid repairs

The City of Winnipeg continues to grapple with sewage spilling into the Red River and it is urging water conservation amid repairs.

Since the failure of two sewer pipes in the city’s south end in early February, millions of litres of raw sewage has spilled into the Red River near the Fort Garry Bridge.

The city has built a bypass system but is waiting for one of its two pumps to be repaired. Until then, there’s a chance more could enter the waterway.

“Sometimes when you walk along the greenway over there, yeah, you can smell sewage,” area resident Elaine Forester said.

The city is asking people in 10 south Winnipeg neighbourhoods to reduce water consumption to prevent more spills.

“We try to conserve water, so has it been impactful on us? Not really, not at all,” Forester said.

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Coun. Janice Lukes says the city has $96 million reserved to build a backup pipe beginning in 2026.

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“We’re an old city, we’ve got a lot of pipes everywhere, we’ve got a lot of infrastructure challenges, and we’re just going to have to deal with them,” she said.

However, she says communication regarding the leak and the busted pipe should have been better.

“I think from Day 1 we should have been telling people to slow the flow.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s Red River polluted after major sewage spill leak, repairs marred by challenges'

Winnipeg’s Red River polluted after major sewage spill leak, repairs marred by challenges

City of Winnipeg water and waste director Tim Shanks says the city could be on the hook for fines as a result of the sewage spill as it is illegal to put material harmful to wildlife into a body of water.

“The federal government and DFO is looped in, communicating. We work with them as we triage these incidents. So the short answer is yes,” Shanks said.

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Shanks says the city will have to use the bypass system for about two years until a permanent fix is completed.

The city expects the broken pump on the bypass to be repaired and operating by Friday.

Meanwhile, in a statement to Global News, the University of Manitoba said it will communicate the recommendations to staff and students next week when they return from reading week.

“UM is aware of the city’s request and will communicate with students, staff and faculty about steps to reduce water usage. It is also reading week at UM, and that means many students are not on the Fort Garry campus this week, which should also reduce water usage.”

with files from Global’s Iris Dyck

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