Windsor gets funding to quadruple spending on water and sewer projects

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross


Windsor is suddenly spending four times what it normally spends on water and sewer projects this year, the result of what Mayor Drew Dilkens calls a “major, major announcement” Monday from the federal and Ontario governments.

Many of the projects will target problems identified last fall when a deluge of rain proved too much for the pumps and sewer systems to handle, leading to widespread basement flooding and a declared state of emergency in Windsor and Tecumseh.

“Everybody appreciates how horrible it is to have a basement flooded. For us, this is about trying to eliminate or minimize that,” Mayor Drew Dilkens said at a city hall news conference Monday. 

The feds are paying half the cost of 14 projects in Windsor worth more than $12 million, with the province kicking in $3 million.  Normally, Windsor would be all on its own with these expensive infrastructure projects to replace deteriorating pipes, upgrade the Lou Romano sewage treatment plant and separate some of the combined storm and sanitary sewers that pose such an environmental threat. The city would have spent $3 million this year, but now can spend $12 million thanks to Monday’s announcement. 

“This was really a good example of government listening to local government and responding to local needs,” Dilkens said, stressing that this was anything but a routine funding announcement. 

Some of the projects will target the infrastructure problems that contributed to last fall’s major flooding in the Riverside area. It will cost: $2.2 million to replace the sewers and rehabilitate the road on Janisse Drive from Wyandotte Street to Raymond Avenue; $2.3 million for new sewers and road rehab on Mount Carmel Drive between Cabana Road and Lennon Court; and $3 million to separate the combined sewers and rehab the road on Princess Avenue from Tecumseh Road to Adstoll Avenue.

City engineer Mark Winterton said it’s “really huge” to get such a large percentage of funding because it means going ahead with some much-needed projects. “It’s exciting stuff for engineers,” he remarked. He said the projects are ready to go to tender and should be started quickly.

While several of the projects will help with the flooding problems experienced last year in Riverside, he said, “obviously it’s not as simple as chasing the rain.”

If other areas of the city received the same deluge Riverside received, they would have had similar problems, he said. “So we’re trying to hit where the need is most.”

In addition to the Windsor funding, the feds are giving $15 million and the province is giving $7 million to pay three-quarters of the cost for 35 projects in 10 other nearby municipalities.

Amherstburg is getting 75 per cent of the $4.9-million cost to upgrade its water treatment plant reservoir. Lakeshore is receiving almost $1.8 million towards the extension of a sewer trunk on Oakwood Street and $900,000 for detailed design and engineering of a wastewater treatment plant in Stoney Point. Leamington is receiving $3.2 million to help separate sewers on three streets. And Tecumseh is getting $1.7 million to rehabilitate its sanitary sewer system.

Kingsville is receiving funding for seven smaller projects and Essex is funded for four.

The money comes from the Canada-Ontario Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.

“By investing in infrastructure now, we can strengthen and grow the middle class and make Canada an even greater place,” said MP Kate Young (L – London West), speaking on behalf of federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

The projects announced Monday,  “are essential to keeping our waterways clean and our communities healthy and liveable, ”she said.

The new Windsor funding will also pay to complete a project started a few years ago to run a camera through every sewer pipe in the city, to identify problems and fix them before they become major catastrophes. So far, 35 per cent of the work is done.

Windsor’s camera work — it will cost $1.1 million to complete — will give the city a better handle on how bad the sewers really are, Winterton said.

The work already done reveals that sometimes a stretch of sewer is generally OK, but there’s a small section in the middle where root infiltration has compromised it. Going to fix that five-foot section can often make the entire line functional again at a greatly reduced cost.

Winterton said really old sewers constructed of bricks in the 1800s are surprisingly solid. The big problems are the sewers constructed of clay and installed in the 1920s and 1930s.

“They’re all at pretty much the end of their life cycle.”

Until he has a better assessment of the condition of all the sewer lines, Winterton is reluctant to estimate how much money it will cost to repair or replace them. 

But he knows the cost will be more than the $300 million estimated to fix the city’s deteriorating roads.