The Green Party of Manitoba [GPM] has been watching with great interest the debate occurring on editorial pages of the Winnipeg Free Press, regarding nitrogen removal at Winnipeg's waste water treatment plants. The findings and comments of Dr. Schindler are interesting, but it is disheartening that most of the debate has centered on the best way to treat our sewage, when we ought to be discussing how to stop creating sewage in the first place.
On July 24th, Councillor Steeves expressed his concern that the roughly $2 billion being spent on upgrading our sewage system "...is not at all a prudent use of taxpayers' money." To this end the GPM would also like to point out that it is also an imprudent use of our precious water resources.
The fact of the matter is, that the vast majority of pathogens and nutrients coming from household sewage originate from human feces and urine. According to a German study, urine accounts for 87% of the total nitrogen content and 50% of the phosphorous content in household sewage water; furthermore feces accounts for 10% of the total nitrogen and 40% of the total phosphorous content. However rather than dealing with this problem at its point of origin, we dilute it with water: firstly when we flush our toilet, and increasingly so as we mix our toilet water, with our wash and drainage water; at which point we then attempt to remove the diluted nutrients and pathogens from the so called "waste-water" or "sewage" that is created.
In essence every year we take several thousand litres of litres of clean fresh water, mix it with a couple hundred litres of our bodily excrements, and then we try to remove the bodily excrements from the water. A rather pointless and inefficient process, when we consider that the technology exists- dry composting toilets (which are already in place in some Winnipeg homes and businesses, mind you)- with which we could treat our bodily excrements without the use of water, and rather than creating algae blooms in lakes, we could produce a useful agricultural product--a nutrient rich soil conditioner.
In her July 28th letter to the Winnipeg Free Press, Minister Melnick asserts that "...the cost for cleaning up Lake Winnipeg is a responsibility of all Manitobans." Undoubtedly, the cost of increasingly eutrophicating and contaminated waterways is borne by all living species in Manitoba. Why then, do both the civic and provincial governments cling to upholding an unsustainable sewage infrastructure?