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How do you significantly reduce pollution in the Detroit River?

Fish and wildlife population loss, drinking water restrictions, a designated area of concern—all of that paints a picture of environmental degradation in the Detroit River. Much of this impact was caused by an all too common problem: combined sewer overflows. Faced with aging infrastructure, limited space, and not enough funds, the City of Windsor, Ontario, needed a unique solution. With a footprint 85% less than a conventional facility, the Windsor Riverfront High-Rate Retention Treatment Basin enhances the City’s riverfront amenities and significantly reduces the pollution entering the river.

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Smaller

By using a completely innovative dosing technique that separates solids from wastewater, we were able to reduce the size of the facility by 85%.

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In the field

This solution is unique—it’s the only facility like it in the world.

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Saved

We saved the City of Windsor over $40M by using a high-rate RTB instead of a conventional solution.

Transcript of the video follows
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<p>When you flush a toilet or drain a sink in Windsor, Ontario, that water goes to a combined sewer. When water goes down the drain in the street, it goes to that same sewer. But when it really starts to rain, a single pipe to the treatment plant might not cut it. Combined sewers can overflow, dumping their untreated contents directly into water ways. In this case, that’s the Detroit River. Normally, we use tunnel, tanks or retention treatment basins to store or treat water before discharge. But treatment facilities are large and expensive. With limited space and a worried community, we were challenged to find a better solution for Windsor. Challenge accepted!</p>
Before
After

But there's not enough space

A conventional solution would have put three retention treatment basins (each the size of a full hockey rink) in three different locations. There just wasn’t the space or community support for that, so we looked at other options. After careful research and bench and pilot-scale testing, we found that we could design a high-rate solution that was 85% smaller. But the significantly smaller size brought its own difficulties. A smaller RTB meant a high-velocity flow. In a conventional system, solids are allowed to settle to the bottom, and then the clear water is pumped out. In a high velocity system, the waters are too turbulent for simple settlement. So how’d we make it perform at the same level as the full-sized option?

A unique solution

Because of limited space and quickly changing flow rates, sewage in the RTB needed help to separate solids from the water. A polymer-based additive was the answer. The Environment Canada Wastewater Technology Centre and University of Windsor had been researching a new technique (since 1999), and we brought it to practical application.

Dosing the water was a delicate business. Add too much to the brew, and the chemicals could flow into the river, damaging fish and damaging water quality. Add too little, and untreated sewage would be discharged back into the river, not solving the original problem. We created an automated dosing system that monitors the concentration of solids as well as the flow rate.

With just the right amount of polymer, the solids are separated so the clean water can be discharged into the river. After that, the remaining solids (and stored CSO) can be sent to the treatment plant, once it’s ready to receive them. The system automatically adjusts to storm type—quick and intense or long and mild. This automated calibration and precise dosing is unique to Windsor’s RTB.

The RTB river discharge pipe has a three-metre diameter—not exactly a pretty feature. We improved the pipe aesthetics and helped the local fish population by installing a rocky fish habitat.

We're better together

Our work begins at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. With a long-term commitment to the people and places we serve, we have the unique ability to connect to projects on a personal level and advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.

Jian Li
Associate, Senior Environmental Engineer
Jian Li
Associate, Senior Environmental Engineer

I am proud of successfully taking this innovative technology for combined sewer overflow control from the lab to full scale implementation.… Read More

Clarence Jubenville
Associate, Senior Municipal Engineer
Clarence Jubenville
Associate, Senior Municipal Engineer

Every time I pass by this site I am amazed and proud of what we accomplished in such a short timeframe.… Read More

Adrien Comeau
Principal, Water
Adrien Comeau
Principal, Water

The Windsor RTB project really highlights the ingenuity and skill that our designers bring in benefitting our community and natural environment.… Read More

Tony Berardi
Principal, Business Center Sector Leader
Tony Berardi
Principal, Business Center Sector Leader

Delivering the RTB project is a testament to the strong engineering capabilities of our Windsor office.… Read More

Nick Liburdi
Principal, Business Center Discipline Leader
Nick Liburdi
Principal, Business Center Discipline Leader

The average person walking along sees a beautiful integration with Windsor’s riverfront master plan, not the magnitude of this project.… Read More

Oliver Ng
Senior Associate, Senior Structural Engineer
Oliver Ng
Senior Associate, Senior Structural Engineer

Windsor RTB’s big challenge was to maintain the City’s riverfront park system while protecting the environment at the same time.… Read More

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