Manitoba Organization: Greater Winnipeg Sanitary District
The low flows in the Red and Assiniboine rivers during 1930 and 1931 gave rise to objectionable odours owing to the continued pollution particularly by the discharge of sewage into them. In 1931, the City of Winnipeg hired engineer W. S. Lea of Montreal to report on the problem and possible solutions.
As the condition of the rivers grew worse in 1932 and 1933, the Manitoba government called together representatives of the municipalities surrounding Winnipeg for a conference on sewage disposal. It approved of a scheme for the disposal of raw sewage and of providing for Winnipeg and suburban area a sewage disposal system, and appointed finance and engineering committees to undertake it. Through 1933 and 1934, the engineering committee under W. S. Lea made a complete study of the project and, in March 1935, a bill to create the Greater Winnipeg Sanitary District passed the Provincial Legislature and was proclaimed into law on 28 June 1935.
In July 1935, the provincial and federal governments agreed to proceed with the project as an unemployment relief measure during the Great Depression. The cost was shared by the two governments and the municipalities comprising the districts such that the federal government contributed 40%, the Manitoba government 20%. and the municipalities the remaining 40%. The municipalities assumed, in addition to these costs, 100% of expenditures for the purchase of land, administration, interest, and preliminary work.
The Greater Winnipeg Sanitary District Act provided that the District should include the City of Winnipeg and all of the contiguous municipalities, but permitted any of them to withdraw within a specified period. A number took advantage of this provision, and as of 1959, the District consisted of the City of Winnipeg, City of St. Boniface, City of St. James, City of East Kildonan, Rural Municipality of West Kildonan, Rural Municipality of St. Vital, Rural Municipality of Fort Garry, Town of Transcona, Town of Tuxedo, Rural Municipality of North Kildonan, Rural Municipality of Assiniboia, and Village of Brooklands.
The Act provided that the Administration Board should be composed of representatives of the cities and municipalities comprising the District, as well as the federal and provincial governments, and that the Mayor of Winnipeg would be Chair. The inaugural meeting of the Board was held on 10 July 1935. One of its first acts was to appoint a Board of Engineers, made up of the Municipal Engineers of Winnipeg and the municipalities comprising the District, along with engineers representing the federal and provincial governments. W. A. Lea was appointed Consulting Engineer to the Board, which initially consisted of Wilfred P. Brereton as Chair and Chief Engineer, John W. Battershill, Nelson Barritt, Charles S. Landon, R. W. McKinnon, Charles F. Gray, and William D. Hurst as Secretary. The Board of Engineers was dissolved on 21 December 1944, at the completion of the project.
The first contract, for a portion of the main intercepting sewer, was awarded by the Administration Board on 21 August 1935 and Mayor John Queen broke ground at the corner of Main Street and Pritchard Avenue on 27 August 1935. Over the course of the next two years, fifty-five contracts were awarded to complete the project.
On 25 October 1937, Winnipeg's first sewage disposal plant was opened officially at a ceremony attended by over 200 federal, provincial, and municipal officials.
“New sewage disposal system is officially opened Monday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 October 1937, page 4.
The Greater Winnipeg Sanitary District Sewerage System and Sewage Treatment Plant, City of Winnipeg Municipal Manual 1959, pages 227-237. [City of Winnipeg Archives]
We thank Sarah Ramsden for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 6 December 2020