Residents throughout the Pembina and Red River Valleys found themselves dealing with sewer backups this past spring.

In Winkler, Mayor Martin Harder considers the city more fortunate than other municipalities but says there were still way too many sewer backups.
Just this past week, Harder found out the reason, in part, for the sewer backups in Winkler. 

He says the flow in the sewer line can't get through the system fast enough so the volume of water is what the sewer capacity can't handle. 

But, Harder says that is only part of the story. He says the rest of the story is what's in the sewer line. A 21-inch and a 24-inch diameter sewer line were completely plugged along the Pembina Avenue sewer line by wipes that are marketed as 'flushable.'

"Believe me, they are not flushable and they end up in the sewer line and they actually form sort of a chain-rag. It's fibrous, so they bind together and they end up plugging a 24-inch sewer line. That's how many rags were in there," said Mayor Harder. 

The city hired the industrial pipe cleaner company Uni-Jet out of Winnipeg to clear the blockage and clean out the lines. Winkler's vac truck is not big enough to handle that kind of blockage, noted Harder. 

Three truckloads of 'wipes' were removed from pipes by Luni-Jet.

The cost to have the buildup of 'rag' debris removed came to over $43,000.

A Resolution Update

With all financing in the bank for Winkler's previously estimated $48-million wastewater treatment plant, it came as a shock when the tenders came back $ 22 million over budget. The project was partially funded by the federal and provincial governments and investments by the City of Winkler and RM of Stanley.
In cases like this when bids come in, Winkler Mayor Martin Harder says the municipality is responsible for any overruns, and shortfalls must be paid back to the government.

For the City of Winkler to absorb the $ 22 million - in addition to the $10-million it already borrowed for the previous project - Harder says it would be like a 300 % increase to the amount of borrowing they would need to do.
That's what prompted the city to draft a resolution that would go to the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) asking them to lobby the provincial government, and subsequently through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, (FCM) lobby the federal government to see that the communities that are facing these kinds of overruns, that the government would also absorb their portion of that responsibility. 

"We brought it before our Central District meeting, it was passed unanimously, it will be taken to the provincial AMM meeting coming up in November and then subsequently hopefully end up on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities desk and taken to the federal level. It's unfair, to drop that ball on the local municipalities, and the feds and the province need to pick up their pace."