Canada’s Wastewater Regulations

Watch: 16×9 correspondent Jackson Proskow, who travels coast to coast to find out just how badly Canada’s wastewater system is crumbling.

16×9 breaks down Canada’s new wastewater regulations here:  

Environment Canada published its first-ever set of wastewater regulations on July 18, 2012 as a means of cleaning up, or at least reducing, the 150 billion litres of untreated, or undertreated wastewater, or sewage, that is dumped into waterways each year. The regulations fall under the Fisheries Act and are enforceable by law.

The regulations apply to any wastewater system that is designed to collect, or collects an average daily volume of 100 cubic meters or more of influent (water flowing into plant for treatment) per day, which is then treated and directed back out into surface water. The Regulations do not apply to any wastewater system located in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and north of the 54th parallel in the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Environment Canada requires a minimum treatment standard for wastewater before it is released into waterways. That minimum standard is called “secondary treatment”, a process that screens and filters water both with machines and biological processes, removing 95 percent of pollutants. In addition, there are requirements for monitoring, record-keeping, reporting and toxicity testing.

Currently, there are approximately 850 – 1000 Canadian wastewater treatment plants in need of upgrades to meet the federal wastewater regulations. These upgrades will cost an estimated $6 billion. Plants that fall short of the national standards and are unable to upgrade systems immediately, may apply for an extension of time so they can reach compliance. Systems posing a high risk are required to meet the standards by December 31, 2020, those posing medium risk must comply by December 31, 2030, and those posing low risk must comply by December 31, 2040.

Levels of wastewater treatment

Primary treatment

• basic form of treatment, using a mechanical process to separate solids – or “floatables” – from the water.

Secondary treatment

• a combination of physical and biological treatment that removes 95 percent of the total mass of pollutants including oxygen-consuming matter, solid material, nutrients and bacteria.

Tertiary treatment

• is the most advanced treatment, using a series of physical, chemical and biological processes.

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Mandatory reporting
The regulations require all owners and operators of wastewater systems to monitor and report on the quality and quantity of water flowing out of their facilities. The regulations specify the types of samples, frequency of sampling based on the average daily volume of effluent deposited and the type of wastewater system. More frequent reporting is required for systems with larger outflows of treated water.

Combined sewer overflows
The Regulations require owners and operators of wastewater systems with combined sewers to record information on the quantity and frequency of treated water discharged, and to submit annual reports and develop a plan to reduce overflows.

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