MKO leadership sounds alarm over sewage dumping into Red River

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There is concern among Indigenous leaders and communities after it was learned the City of Winnipeg recently dumped almost 60 million litres of raw sewage into the Red River after a weekend of heavy rainfall to overwhelm the city’s sewage systems.

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“In this day and age of environmental and health awareness, this practice should no longer be acceptable,” Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison statement Settee said in a reacting to the news that the city’s wastewater department made the decision last weekend to divert wastewater into the Red River, and ended up dumping 59.6 million litres of sewage into the river.

The city said the move was made to prevent Winnipeg homeowners from having their sewers backed up, and to prevent wastewater from spilling out onto city streets after another weekend of heavy precipitation put extreme pressure on the city’s wastewater systems.

But Settee said, with many Manitoba First Nations communities located downstream from where the sewage was dumped, the move could be harmful to the health of both the people and the environment in those communities.

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September 17/2002 – A culvert dumps sewage into the Red River following a sewage plant breakdown.MARCEL CRETAIN Sun ORG XMIT: winCulvertFront08250Marcel Cretain
September 17/2002 – A culvert dumps sewage into the Red River following a sewage plant breakdown.MARCEL CRETAIN Sun ORG XMIT: winCulvertFront08250Marcel Cretain Photo by file /Winnipeg Sun

“The dumping of raw sewage into tributary waters brings into question impacts upon, not only the environment but also on the health of the people living downstream,” Settee said. “The environmental impacts of releasing raw sewage highlights issues of nutrient loading into an already impacted lake, with elements such as phosphorous and nitrogen.

“For human health, there is the danger of e-coli contamination, among other contaminants, on food production such as farms and cattle.”

Settee said anytime Winnipeg dumps sewage into the Red River, it concerns many MKO citizens, because of where they live, and where that sewage could end up.

“Winnipeg sits in the middle of the confluence of the Assiniboine River and Red River, the two major drainage rivers into Lake Winnipeg,” Settee said. “The MKO territory begins at the north basin of Lake Winnipeg, where several MKO First Nations are located.

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“MKO First Nations are rightfully concerned about the effects of dumping raw sewage into two major tributary rivers into Lake Winnipeg, upstream of their territories in the northern basin and the Nelson River.”

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