RELEASE — With the recreational water use season upon us, Utilities Kingston would like to remind boaters, swimmers and other waterfront users to check its sewer overflow map after heavy rainfalls. To reduce overflows, Utilities Kingston and City of Kingston set a 20-year target to separate 100 per cent of the combined sewers in the municipal sewer system, by 2043.
Kingston’s waterfront is a clean, safe place to swim, fish or boat. But bacteria levels in lakes and rivers are higher up to 48 hours after heavy rainfall and swimming is not recommended during that time. Sewer overflows can contribute to the problem. Utilities Kingston’s online map shows where sewer overflows have occurred in real time, affecting Lake Ontario, the Great Cataraqui River, the Little Cataraqui Creek, and other surrounding bodies of water.
“We are proud to be transparent in helping residents make more informed decisions on recreational water use, as we continue to both reduce sewer overflows and openly share information,” says Remi Adedapo, Director of Utilities Engineering for Utilities Kingston. “Water users can consider our real-time sewer overflow map before they use certain locations at Lake Ontario within 48 hours of heavy rainfall.”
“KFL&A Public Health supports Utilities Kingston in their initiative to improve public notification of sewer overflows into recreational waters. This information is beneficial to the public’s health and we’re glad that it’s being shared. The sewer overflow map is a resource that should be considered after a heavy rainfall, before deciding to participate in recreational activities on the water,” says Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health.
How Utilities Kingston is reducing sewer overflows
In 2022, Utilities Kingston managed approximately 35.8 million cubic metres of wastewater. Almost all of it (99.9 per cent) was fully treated and returned to Lake Ontario as natural resource quality water. Approximately 0.1 per cent of sewage was released from overflows and bypasses, typically when the sewers became too full due to heavy rains and rapid snow melts, or when equipment failed.
To protect the natural environment—including the flora and fauna that inhabit local waterways—and the health and safety of recreational water users, Utilities Kingston is actively addressing sewer overflows. In partnership with the City of Kingston, the company has set a 20-year target to separate 100 per cent of the combined sewers in the municipal sewer system, by 2043.
Utilities Kingston and the City of Kingston will continue to separate combined sewers to further reduce combined sewer overflows. Planned near-term work includes Victoria Street, from Johnson to Union; Union Street, from Victoria to Collingwood; Earl Street, from Victoria to Collingwood; Couper Street; Collingwood Street from Couper to Union; Princess Street, from Division to Alfred; and Gore and Bagot Street.
Overflows of sewage are a historical remnant of the evolution of the sanitary sewer system in the City of Kingston. Overflows are a problem that exists in most major cities around the world. When a sewer overflow reaches the lake or river, it contributes pollutants to the environment.
As per the Utilities Kingston Water and Wastewater Master Plan, the preferred method for reducing sewer overflows is to separate combined sewers—sewers that collect both sewage and stormwater runoff and can get too full during heavy rain events.
In 2007, the municipal sewer system still included 275 blocks of these combined sewers, some constructed 100 years ago. Since that time, the City of Kingston and Utilities Kingston have worked together to separate nearly half of these combined sewers and are well-positioned to separate the remaining 51 per cent by 2043.
- An overview of the problem, including an animated video is available at https://UtilitiesKingston.com/Wastewater/SewerOverflow/Overview
- Learn about projects to reduce sewer overflows and see an animated map showing where Utilities Kingston has separated sewers since 2001 at https://UtilitiesKingston.com/Wastewater/SewerOverflow/Reduction
- Get answers to frequently asked health and technical questions at https://UtilitiesKingston.com/Wastewater/SewerOverflow/FAQ
- Learn about projects to reduce sewer overflows, from both Utilities Kingston and City of Kingston, at https://UtilitiesKingston.com/Projects and https://www.CityofKingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction