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Water Today Title January 18, 2021

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Update 2018/9/12
Municipal infrastructure


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by Cori Marshall

At the end of August, WaterToday reported on the release of large amounts of untreated wastewater into the Lower Niagara River, and the cross-border debate that took the form of open letters in the media. The overflow came after a wastewater treatment facility in Niagara Falls, New York, was unable to handle the volume of water due to abundant rainfall. It is apparent that adequate wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is essential if we as a society are to be the stewards of our waterways as we are supposed to be.

The incident in Niagara indicates that a look at this type of infrastructure needs to happen, and it was with this in mind that WaterToday reached out to the Ville de Montréal, to find out the state of the wastewater\stormwater system.

Audrey Gauthier, Publicist with the Service de Communications, Ville de Montréal took the time to speak with us about the City's underground water system.

Gauthier explained that "almost two-thirds of the Island of Montréal is serviced by a combined sewer system," this means that the system is designed to collect stormwater, as well as domestic and industrial wastewater. She added that primarily in the west of the island there are "sanitary and storm sewers."

"The presence of a combined collection system in urban areas that were mostly developed and urbanized in the first half of the twentieth century is pretty typical," Gauthier said, "it is a significant asset to which we have added an interception system."

Along its shoreline the City has added 60 kilometres of tunnels, that have "significant flow and storage capacity to deal with sanitary and wet weather flows," Gauthier said.

    "More than 99% of sanitary flows and 70% of storm flows are intercepted and treated at the J.R. Marcotte wastewater treatment facility."

    Audrey Gauthier, Publicist, Service de Communications, Ville de Montréal

When asked if what is in place is the best possible setup, Gauthier responded "we consider that it is the best option available with the infrastructures already in place and we continue to add facilities, storage tanks for example, and improve operations." Examples of improvement of operations would include real-time control, monitoring and forecasting.

Most of the water infrastructure in the ground that Montrealers take for granted, "is more than fifty years old," Gauthier explained.

Like in Niagara late last month, on September 3, 2018, Montréal experienced a series of heavy rainfall. In regard to that precipitation, Gauthier said that the system performed "very well." She added that "there were some overflows released in the Rivières des Prairies, [though] only at a few sites and for less than an hour." Most of what fell was "intercepted and treated."

The City does experience "combined sewer overflows," when untreated water is released into the waterway. Gauthier said, "during larger storms, some overflow occurs since the interception system, and the treatment facility does not have the capacity to deal with the significant peak flow that occurs when rainfall intensity is high."

    "The City of Montréal is no different than any other big cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago or Boston since [all] have very similar sewer infrastructures built at the same time."

    Audrey Gauthier, Publicist, Service de Communications, Ville de Montréal

Last Monday "was a very intense storm, but mainly in the eastern part of the island," Gauthier said. The total rainfall in other parts of the city was less than 10mm.

We asked if Montréal wastewater and stormwater infrastructure was ready to meet the challenges of climate change.

Gauthier said, "additional underground infrastructures to add hydraulic capacity and implantation of green infrastructures to better manage runoff on the surface are improvements we are currently studying and designing." This is not only to address climate changebut also to "improve the current level of service."


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