Pellerin: In Ottawa, suddenly sewers are sexy – and rightly so

By Brigitte Pellerin, Ottawa Citizen, December 1, 2020

I don’t know who else is excited by Ottawa’s newest sewer but man, am I happy. Not just because heavy rains will no longer mean raw sewage in the Ottawa River, but because for once three levels of government collaborated to fund and manage a much-needed project that was completed without undue fuss. And then big-time politicians showed up at the opening ceremony, like they were proud of it or something.

(...)In the end, the program lasted eight years and cost $8.3 billion. But did it fix infrastructure that badly needed repairing? That question is much more complicated than it has any right to be.

Much of the money got spent building shiny new things — recreation centres, tennis parks, the Saddledome in Calgary — instead of replacing 100-year-old sewer lines made of brick that were still in operation in cities like Montreal. Or adding basic infrastructure where it was missing, for instance in Halifax and Victoria, where raw sewage was simply being dumped in the water.

Ottawa, until just now, had problems with that. As the city explained in a Nov. 20 announcement, we started fixing things in 2016. “Now in operation, the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel will significantly reduce the frequency of combined sewage overflows to the Ottawa River, bringing the City into compliance with Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks guidelines. It will reduce the volume of combined sewage overflows to the Ottawa River by up to 43,000 m3 per event – or approximately 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools – while also reducing the risk of basement flooding for approximately 7,000 residential properties in the north end of the Glebe and in Centretown.”

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