Protecting the environment and our future

A major upgrade to Portage la Prairie’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) is required to meet new provincial and federal water quality standards. The upgrade must reduce nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) discharged to the Assiniboine River in a province-wide effort to reduce harmful algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg that are negatively impacting one of our nation’s largest lakes, and adversely affecting water quality in Manitoba. A major upgrade to Portage la Prairie’s Water Pollution Control Facility is required to meet new provincial and federal water quality standards. The project also addresses a needed overall renewal of the facility, which is mostly 25 years old.

Cost

The required upgrade to Portage la Prairie’s Water Pollution Control Facility is projected to cost $250 Million, which represents the single largest infrastructure project in the City’s history. The City conducted thorough value-for-money and risk analyses and determined that the best value will be delivered through a public-private-partnership arrangement using the design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) model.

Careful City budgeting, and increased utility rates for all Portage la Prairie residents and businesses will be necessary to fund the upgrade, and the increased cost of operation. The City will do its utmost to minimize rate increases, and will ensure the public is informed about this as the project progresses and the budget implications become known.

Benefits

Beyond the required nutrient reduction that improves and protects water quality, our City will ensure that the upgrades also result in other benefits to the environment and our community, including eliminating odour emissions, strengthening local economic activity and supporting local trades and technical expertise. Other benefits include:

  • increasing municipal wastewater treatment capacity up to 25% to support residential and commercial growth
  • ensuring this important municipal asset is efficiently operated and well maintained to secure its longevity
  • increasing the energy efficiency of the plant
  • capturing and processing the plant’s own biogas byproduct for beneficial reuse — offsetting the facility’s energy consumption and minimizing its greenhouse gas emissions
  • more effectively capturing beneficial biosolids for agricultural purposes
  • minimizing the need for chemicals in the treatment process
  • ensuring the plant’s capability to support development with a sustainable approach to wastewater treatment — which in turn supports our region’s agricultural processing and export economy, and future economic growth
  • securing equitable investment from all levels of government

Timelines: key project milestones

  • Fall 2023 – Request for Proposals issued by the City of Portage la Prairie
  • Fall 2024 – Proponent selected to design, build and finance the upgrades, and to operate and maintain the                          facility
  • Spring 2025 – Construction begins
  • Fall 2027 – Construction completion

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the City of Portage la Prairie.

 

 

The following addresses commonly asked questions about required upgrades to The City of Portage la Prairie’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF).

Why are the upgrades being done?

The upgrades are required to meet new provincial and federal water quality standards, which aligns with the City’s commitment to sustainability and the environment. The upgrade must be done so the WPCF reduces nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) discharged to the Assiniboine River in a province-wide effort to reduce harmful algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg that contaminate beaches, reduce water quality, damage Manitoba’s important fishing and tourism industries, and pose a potential threat to human health and to pets, livestock and wildlife.

As well, the upgrade will reduce the WPCF’s greenhouse gas emissions, supporting the City of Portage la Prairie’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2011 levels for municipal operations. The project also addresses a needed overall renewal of the facility, which is mostly 25 years old.

What will it cost?

The City is currently preparing revised construction cost estimates.  The initial estimate for construction and all implementation costs was approximately $182 million, however, due to significant cost inflation in the construction industry, with consideration for potential changes to the scope of the project, the construction estimate is now $250 million.

How will it be funded?
Grant funding for the capital construction portion of the project is being provided through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The Manitoba government will provide more than $61 million; the Government of Canada is providing more than $60 million;, and the City of Portage la Prairie will finance the remaining capital amount. The City’s funding will be financed through its selected operating partner.

The City has anticipated the WPCF upgrades for many years. It will require the City to undertake significant financial obligations which will be strategically managed over the next several years.

Will my utility bill go up?

Yes. Increased utility rates for all Portage la Prairie residents, businesses, and industries will be necessary to fund the capital upgrade and increased cost of operation, including greater focus on sustainable management of infrastructure assets. The City will do its utmost in budgeting and fiscal management to minimize rate increases, and will ensure the public is informed about this as the project progresses and the cost implications become known.

Where do the excess nutrients in our wastewater come from?

A wide range of human activity can increase the presence of nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater, including industrial processes. The discharge from agricultural processing facilities in and around Portage la Prairie accounts for most of the nutrient loading in the wastewater.  The industries acknowledge their responsibility to reduce their environmental impact and are actively supporting the WPCF upgrading project.

If industrial wastewater accounts for most of the nutrient, what is their share of the cost?

The City is responsible for making the required upgrades to its facility. For our valued industrial partners whose operations generate wastewater that requires treatment, there will be a proportionate increase in utility costs, which will in turn assist in funding the upgrade construction and operation.

What does the DBFOM model mean?

This model has become an innovative approach for municipalities to effectively engage private sector partners to undertake large infrastructure development projects such as the required upgrades to the Water Pollution Control Facility. That partner is selected through a competitive process designed to ensure the best option and quality for the best price.

Evidence[1] shows that public-private sector partnership models are more likely to result in projects being delivered on-time and on-budget than traditional approaches, and reduce financial risk for municipalities and taxpayers.

The City of Portage la Prairie will always own the facility. The selected partner will Design, Build and Finance the required upgrade. Once the upgrade is complete, that partner will Operate and Maintain the WPCF.

As part of its operational agreement with the City, the facility operator must implement a lifecycle maintenance plan to ensure effective operation and protection of this important City asset, which reduces the cost burden of infrastructure deficit for future generations.

What happens to the employees at the WPCF?

All WPCF employees will be offered employment with the new facility operator under the same terms as their existing collective agreement.

What about other local job opportunities?

Until a project partner has been selected and a plan for the upgrade has been created, we can’t know the specifics, but the City anticipates that the construction phase will create local job opportunities. While construction is in progress, we also expect an increase in demand for local goods and services (restaurants, hotels and fuel for example) by construction crews. Once the facility has been upgraded and is operational, we also expect that local trades and technical experts (welders, electricians and engineers, for example) will be called on to address specific operation and maintenance requirements.

How will I be affected by the project?

Residents and businesses in the city of Portage la Prairie and in our municipality will not be affected while the upgrades are taking place, and there will be no interruptions in service.

How will our City’s downstream neighbours be affected?

Once the upgrades are complete, the treated wastewater discharged into the Assiniboine River from the Water Pollution Control Facility will contain over 95% less phosphorus and over 70% less nitrogen that cause harmful algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg. Otherwise they’ll be unaffected.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the City of Portage la Prairie.

 

 

 

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/infrastructure-and-capital-projects/articles/canadian-public-private-partnerships-report.html