Every year about 150 billion litres of untreated sewage are dumped into Canadian surface waters. In 2010 I blogged about then Environment Minister JIm Prentice releasing a draft of proposed municipal wastewater systems effluent regulations, which are designed to set standards for the discharge from all 4,000 wastewater facilities in Canada. This was part of implementing the Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater that was endorsed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in 2009.
The Environment Minister and Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities have announced that the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations are now in force. The Regulations are established under the Fisheries Act and include mandatory minimum effluent quality standards that can be achieved through secondary wastewater treatment. The Wastewater System Effluent Regulations are Canada's first national standards for sewage treatment. The regulations are intended to prevent untreated and under-treated sewage from being dumped into surface waters. The Government of Canada, which said it worked with provinces, territories and municipalities, to finalize these regulations, expects that about 75 percent of existing wastewater systems already meet the minimum secondary wastewater treatment standards in the Regulations. Communities and municipalities that meet the standards will not need to make upgrades to their systems. The other 25 percent, about 850 individual communities or treatment areas, will have to upgrade to at least secondary wastewater treatment.
Environment Canada has classified towns and cities into three categories of risk when it comes to their wastewater systems. High, medium and low categories would be given until 2020, 2030 and 2040, respectively, to comply with the regulations. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated that the regulations could cost municipalities over $30 billion and has urged a national funding plan involving all levels of government to pay for the wastewater upgrades.
Owners and operators of the systems will also need to consistently monitor and submit reports on their effluent releases. According to Environment Canada, the new effluent standards align Canada with both the United States and the European Union.