Drainage Update: Odour Control & Public Warning Systems

Odour Control:

In the past eight years, the City received over 7,000 complaints about odours emanating from the drainage system. Odour hotspots have been reported in numerous neighbourhoods throughout Edmonton, including Steinhauer (one identified odour hotspot). Back in 2013, while doorknocking in the area 34 Avenue and 106 Street, residents of Steinhauer expressed concerns of putrid sewer odors. And following the campaign, my team continued to receive complaints from area residents. As a result, my office worked with drainage operations to extensively investigate the root cause and determine a long-term solution.


At Friday’s Utility Committee, Council heard from administration on the City’s wide-spread odour issue. The Drainage Odour Control report specifies there are a variety of causes for the unpleasant odours. This includes the long distance sewage must travel through pipes in older parts of the city and low levels of wastewater flow. An odour control strategy, set to be completed by December, will set priorities in neighbourhoods across Edmonton. Pilot projects could be launched as early as 2019 after a year of concept development.

Over the past two years, efforts have been made in Steinhauer to seal manholes and use chemical treatments to flush the sewer system. However, based on continuing reports from area residents, these efforts were unsuccessful. The City’s next steps for the neighbourhoods of Ermineskin and Steinhauer, include the following:

1. Making changes to two drop shafts at 111 Street/29 Avenue and 106 Street/34 Avenue - Construction is planned for 2019-2020.

2. Treating odorous compounds at some strategic locations, including pump stations at Blue Quill, Twin Brooks and Blackburne - Implementation will begin in 2019.

3. Upgrading and modifying the operating mechanism of the Duggan Pump Station located at 105 Street/45 Avenue - Construction will begin in 2020.

4. If possible, installing one or two vent stacks at 111 Street and 34 Avenue to reduce the trunk sewer air pressure - Construction is planned for 2020.

In addition to this work and as part of the City of Edmonton’s continued investment in flood mitigation and preparedness. The City is committed to continuing its work to determine the most effective solution to permanently address the odour issue, which includes:

- Extensive field data (gas pressures and hydrogen sulphide concentrations) is being collected in the sewer trunks from Bonnie Doon all the way to the Blue Quill/Twin Brooks areas to better understand how the sewer gases are formed and also how they escape into the communities.

- Inspection and cleaning of selected deep trunks in and leading to the area to remove sediment and organic materials built-up over the years are being investigated. This approach is expected to reduce the formation of the odour compounds. This project will start all the way from the 111Street/29A Avenue intersection and toward the east to the Bonnie Doon area. We are currently looking at the logistics to get a contractor (who has the right equipment to access these deep trunks) on board. The execution of this plan will start in 2017.

- Laboratory testing at the University of Alberta to fully understand the effectiveness of some of the preliminary engineering solutions that have been identified (as outlined above).

Improved Public Warning Systems:

In August 2016, following two storms that left portions of the Whitemud underwater, Council requested administration to report back on how as a City, we could better warn drivers of dangerous flooding on freeways. At Friday’s Utility Committee, administration presented Council with a report on Drainage Design Capacity and Improved Public Warning Systems. The report highlights the importance on educating residents about the risks of using underpasses during heavy rain and outlines new signage and technology that could enhance public safety.  

Prior to the 2017 rain season, administration will implement a pilot early-warning system for the two Whitemud Drive underpasses at 106 and 111 Streets. Those sites are two of the five underpasses across the city equipped with sensors that sound an alarm if water begins to rise in underground storage tanks. The sensors are used to turn on pumps to push out water more quickly when water levels in the storage tanks begin to rise. In addition, Administration will also undertake a separate project to evaluate all underpass locations on the inner ring road.