Stink strategy: Epcor proposes 7-year plan to clear the worst sewer odours in Edmonton

Edmonton’s proposed plan to stamp out sewer and drainage odours is projected to start at $217 million — significantly less than the $350 to $460 million Epcor projected last October. 

A new report prepared by the city’s water and sewer utility shows Epcor is ready to tackle five neighbourhoods between 2019 and 2026: Steinhauer, Duggan, Allendale, Pleasant View and Bonnie Doon — neighbourhoods considered “consistent odour areas.”

It will cost less than first thought because they’ve figured out how to mitigate odours and preventing them in the first place, Richard Brown, Epcor’s director of drainage planning and engineering said.

“I think we’ve changed our philosophy a little bit,” Brown told CBC News Thursday.

“The previous strategy was around addressing the symptoms of odour. What we’ve dug into this time is the root cause of odour and how can we prevent that.” 

Keeping wastewater moving underground will help prevent the odour in the first place and they can control better where it’s emitted — away from neighbourhoods, he said.

Councillors and community leagues have been asking for action for years, including residents in Coun. Ben Henderson’s ward of Bonnie Doon. 

“Getting an understanding of it and what may be causing it and how you can fix it I think has just taken a frustratingly long period of time,” Henderson said. 

Henderson said engineers didn’t consider odour in the same way 10 years ago, but they understand the need to prevent the hydrogen sulphide in the first place, instead of just trying to cap it. 

“H2S is really highly corrosive and actually may be putting the system and the infrastructure itself at risk,” Henderson added.

Replacing older infrastructure is also part of the strategy, Epcor said.

‘Dynamic, Emerging’

Other parts of the city will take longer to fix. 

Neighbourhoods north of the river are considered “dynamic” odour areas, including Glenora, West Jasper Place, Parkdale and downtown, Brown said.

“That’s where the odour issue is moving around,” Brown said. “So we can make operational changes but we can’t make long-term capital solutions until we get a better understanding of what’s happening.” 

Epcor calls Lauderdale and Parson Road, including Mill Woods neighbourhoods, “emerging” odour areas.

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

The strategy would include operational improvements and trunk line cleaning to reduce sewer odour city-wide. 

But solving the odour issues in these dynamic odour areas is included in the second phase of Epcor’s plan, from 2017 to 2032. 

Over the past decade, residents have reported more than 10,000 instances of sewer-related odours. 

Epcor will ask council to approve a utility rate increase beginning in January, 2020 that would mean an average $1.29 a month more per household. 

Council’s utility committee is set to discuss the proposal on Friday. 


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