Epcor offers plan to address smelly sewers in Edmonton

The city and Epcor have a plan to deal with sewer stench in Edmonton.

Council’s utility committee heard and approved Epcor’s new $273-million plan on Friday.

Richard Brown, Epcor’s director of drainage planning, said the revised plan of action is to keep the water moving instead of venting the odour. He says that will help with the smell and also prevent corrosion.

“Odour is seen as an early warning of a problem within the system,” Brown said. “If we can detect it quickly and start putting some of these action plans in place, we’ll lower the risk and the impact in the future.”

Epcor identifies three kinds of neighbourhoods experiencing odours: consistent, dynamic and emerging. (EPCOR)

The sulfur smell is caused by hydrogen sulfide gas which Brown said is very detectable, even at low levels.

“The key is to prevent it from forming in the first place,” Brown said. “Anywhere wastewater stops moving, that’s where the problems are going to be.”

‘Struggled to find the right answer’

The $273-million cost to fix the problem could be passed onto residents across the city through a projected increase of about $1.50 a month, if approved in the fall.

It’s money well-spent, according to Coun. Michael Walters. He said the plan presented by Epcor to the utility committee Friday has made him feel more confident than ever that the problem will be solved.

Coun. Michael Walters said he has heard from many residents in his area about the sulphur smell that stops them from enjoying their backyards. (Peter Evans/CBC)


“We’ve struggled to find the right answer on this issue for a number of years,” Walters said.

“Engaging the University of Alberta and other planning consultants to come up with all kinds of venting strategies … strategies to improve wastewater flow out of the pump stations. What Epcor’s now provided us with is a pretty robust strategy.”

Walters said this was a problem he has heard about since the 2013 municipal election.

Work will begin in the neighbourhoods where odour concerns have been the most consistent.

Work in the Stenhauer and Duggan areas has already started and is expected to be complete next year.

A tunnel bypass is also planned for the area but that won’t be complete until 2026, if the funding is approved.

The communities of Allendale and Bonnie Doon are also at the top of the list, though no timeline was given.

“We understand the system and we’ve got a long-term solution [in those areas],” Brown said. “We can start deploying operation and capital solutions very quickly. Some of the other areas across the city, the dynamic and emerging odour areas, we need to get more information.” 

Epcor’s director of drainage planning presented the updated corrosion and odour mitigation strategy to the city’s utility committee Friday at city hall. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Brown says they will continue to monitor those areas, which include West Jasper Place, Glenora, Parkdale, and the downtown core.

The Parsons Road and Lauderdale areas are on the emerging odour list and will also be monitored. 

But Brown warns newer suburban communities may not be off the hook.

“What we do know is that the infrastructure we have at the moment was designed in an area where this was not considered,” Brown said. “We need to put improvements in place as part of knowing what’s going on in the system to better be able to design our future infrastructure.”

Brown said that the upgrades made in the areas with consistent odours could help improve the situation downstream as well. 

Epcor will appear before council in the fall to discuss the rate increase to cover the corrosion and odour mitigation project’s costs.

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