Lakewide Management Plan Update, 2001
Kingston’s sewage success story
by John Allen, MOE
In an October 2001 interview with the Kingston Whig-Standard, Allen acknowledges that the story below “misrepresents information” about steps taken by the City of Kingston. For background, please read the Whig article.
Kingston residents should once again enjoy their beaches this summer without the need for beach closures.
The City of Kingston has not had to close its beaches due to high bacteria levels for three years now thanks to an extensive program that involves significant upgrades to the sewer system. The program was initiated in 1992 as a result of a Pollution Control Planning Study which recommended several actions, including the separation of combined sewers.
Combined sewers take both storm water and sewage into one sewer. Normally this can be handled by the sewage system, but during periods of heavy rain the amount of storm water can be so great that the sewage treatment plant can’t handle all of the water in the combined sewer. As a result, the combined storm water and raw sewage is bypassed – discharged directly into the lake – resulting in the pollution of Lake Ontario and high bacteria levels at Kingston’s waterfront and beaches.
The bypassing problem was a result of two main deficiencies in Kingston’s sewer system. Because of the aging infrastructure, the system suffered from pipes that were too small and pumps at the sewage treatment plant didn’t have a large enough capacity to handle the additional water during heavy storms.
Recognizing the problem, the city took a number of corrective actions, and has invested over $12 million to date.
Two combined sewer overflow tanks were installed to handle the excess water during wet weather. They are capable of storing up to 6,300 m3of untreated sewage and storm water until the sewage treatment plant can accept and process the excess wastewater.
The city has made upgrades to its sewers by installing larger pipes, and by replacing aging pumps where necessary with new, higher capacity pumps at its pumping station. The city has also been pursuing the separation of combined sewers. By separating these sewers, only the sewage is directed to the treatment plant while the non-polluting storm water is discharged into the lake.
Thanks to these proactive steps taken by the City of Kingston, bacteria levels have been lowered, beaches have not been closed in over three years, and most importantly, the amount of pollution entering Lake Ontario has been lessened.