Ottawa's mayor, Larry O’Brien. (via City of Ottawa)

Hot on the heels of last week’s sewer overflows, the City of Ottawa has released a plan to clean up and protect the Ottawa River.

Based on recent consultations with residents across the City of Ottawa, City staff are recommending the Planning and Environment Committee recommend to Council it spend approximately $200 million over the next four years on a broad range of measures that will greatly control and reduce sewage and contaminated stormwater into the Ottawa River.

“With great support from the federal and provincial governments, measures are now being undertaken to limit the flow of sewage and contaminated storm water into the river, and this announcement takes the process one step further,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien.

Last year, the City introduced three options for the public to consider that would control the level of sewage and contaminated stormwater into the river. The City released its Ottawa River Action Plan (ORAP) recommendations aimed at improving the health of the river and greatly reducing the number of sewer overflows that occur during wet weather. The plan calls on the City to set an aggressive target of zero overflows in years with average precipitation. To achieve this, the plan calls for the creation of storage space in the downtown combined sewer area to capture flows during wet weather that will be pumped out to the City’s sewage treatment centre at a later date.

Water and wastewater ratepayer’s dollars would see the construction of large underground storage facilities that would capture combined sewage flows during rainstorms. The storage facilities, possibly similar to the Sandy Hill storage tank recently commissioned in Sandy Hill, and winner of the Ontario Public Works Association 2009 Project of the Year, will hold combined sewage until a storm has subsided. This combined sewage will then be pumped or drained to the City’s R. O. Pickard Environmental Centre, when capacity exists both to receive and treat it.

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Next week, Planning and Environment Committee will consider the ORAP, a program intended to take us further in protecting and improving Ottawa River water quality. A key recommendation in that report recommends spending $140 million over the next five years to further reduce both the volume and frequency of combined sewer overflows into the Ottawa River.

It is hoped that the funds associated with this investment in Ottawa’s sewer infrastructure will allow the City to reduce the volume of combined sewer overflows by 65 per cent.

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