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Proposed federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations will cost municipalities billions in capital and operating costs, and drive up their GHG emissions, all with no new federal funding.

The new rules will allow municipalities to discharge sewage effluent under the Fisheries Act, but only if the effluent meets strict standards for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), suspended solids (SS), residual chlorine and unionized ammonia. Since most sewage plants do not meet the new standards, they will need major capital upgrades. Non-compliant plants can request permission to operate, pending those upgrades: temporary (up to three year) permits for excess unionized ammonia, and transitional (i.e. until 2020 for high risk plants) permits for BOD, SS and ammonia. There are no extensions for chlorine. It is not clear what will happen to plants who cannot get the new permits, especially since it will be a serious offence for any individual to operate such a plant.

Equally challenging, Environment Canada wants to see the elimination of separated and combined sewer overflows, even though combined sewers require such overflows. Every such overflow will now be treated as a spill, requiring reporting and a “response” to eliminate future overflows. Many plants will also require extensive environmental effects monitoring.

How will municipalities pay for all this?

Environment Canada is of the view that the …proposed regulations are affordable if all jurisdictions make wastewater funding a priority….

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