LONDON, ONT. -- Fewer floods and safer drinking water. That’s the goal of a major infrastructure improvement project at two of London’s wastewater treatment plants.

“With severe weather events on the rise it is imperative that we invest now in infrastructure that protects Canadians, their homes, and their businesses,” said London West MP Kate Young.

She was on hand at Museum London Monday to announced $19.8 million in federal funding for improvements at London’s Greenway and Adelaide wastewater treatment plants.

London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos also attended. He pointed to a severe weather event on Jan. 11 of this year, which resulted in millions of litres of untreated sewage discharged into the Thames River.

He warned of the potential impact on drinking water, “In flooding situations you could see plants overwhelmed. You could see plants flooded. And if that happens, Londoners could face a situation where their access to drinking water is comprimised. Not just for a few days, or a few weeks, but for a few months.”

Wastewater treatment funding announcement
Officials attend an announcement about federal funding in London, Ont. on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. (Bryan Bicknell / CTV News)

The federal funding is part of a $49.5 million infrastructure improvement project at the two facilities, with the municipality picking up nearly $30 million of the cost.

Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan said it’s crucial to get this work completed.

“The wastewater treatment plants supply 70 per cent of the wastewater treatment for the city, so these two plants are really critical to Londoners’ water supply.”

Part of the planned improvements include building physical barriers between the river and the two facilities, said Scott Mathers, London water and wastewater manager. He said the barriers will allow the plants to operate a full capacity during flooding events.

“What we’re looking at is creating a floodwall around the Greenway plant to protect it during large storms, and also build a pumping station there in order to get the water out of the plant into the river in a way that’s already treated. And at the same time we’ll be doing a similar project at the Adelaide plant.”

The project is expected to create 80 jobs in engineering, design and construction.

Environmental assessment gets underway in 2021.