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Frequently Asked Questions

Municipal Wastewater Effluent Publication of Final Instrument

Why is Environment Canada targeting ammonia, inorganic chloramines and chlorinated wastewater in municipal treatment plants?

Ammonia dissolved in water, inorganic chloramines and chlorinated wastewater effluents were found to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, (CEPA 1999). Under CEPA, the Minister of the Environment is obligated to propose a preventive or control instrument for substances that have been found to be toxic. Municipal wastewater effluents were identified as a priority for risk management action.

Who is Subject to the Pollution Prevention Planning Notice for Inorganic Chloramines and Chlorinated Wastewater Effluents?

Persons subject to the Pollution Prevention Planning Notice are owners of wastewater systems where the effluent released to surface water is greater than or equal to 5 000 cubic metres per day, and where the concentration of total residual chlorine in the effluent exceeds 0.02 mg/L.

Why was the proposed instrument for ammonia changed?

Following extensive consultation with the provinces and territories and stakeholders, and the decision of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) to develop a Canada-wide Strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluents by December 2006, Environment Canada decided to develop a CEPA Guideline for ammonia instead of a pollution prevention planning instrument.

It remains the intention of Environment Canada to develop a management strategy that would include a regulation under the Fisheries Act based on a harmonized regulatory framework and common standards for specific pollutants, including ammonia and chlorine. The Guideline takes into account the comments received, the future development of a regulation, and the progress made in the development of a comprehensive Canada-wide Strategy. The Guideline also provides guidance for owners of wastewater systems that are consistent with a long-term management strategy for municipal wastewater effluents.

Who is subject to the Guideline for the Release of Ammonia Dissolved in Water Found in Wastewater Effluents?

This Guideline applies to owners of wastewater systems that have an effluent discharge flow to surface water greater than or equal to 5 000 cubic metres per day.

What are the objectives for chlorine and ammonia?

The risk management objective for chlorine is to achieve and maintain a concentration of total residual chlorine that is less than or equal to 0.02 milligrams per litre (mg/L) in the effluent released to surface water by December 15, 2009.

The objectives for ammonia are twofold: 1) to achieve and maintain a concentration of ammonia in the effluent that is not acutely lethal to fish due to ammonia and 2) to achieve and maintain a concentration of ammonia in the effluent that will ensure the protection of freshwater life.

How many wastewater systems are selected by these new instruments?

It is expected that approximately 95 facilities that release 5 000 cubic meters per day or more of wastewater effluent to surface water with a concentration of chlorine in the effluent greater than 0.02 milligrams/litre will have to prepare pollution prevention plans. The Guideline for ammonia will apply to a maximum of approximately 280 facilities discharging 5 000 cubic metres per day or more of wastewater effluent to surface water.

What are the legal obligations related to pollution prevention planning for the owners of the selected wastewater systems?

Owners of wastewater systems subject to the Pollution Prevention Planning Notice must:

  • Prepare a pollution prevention plan and begin implementation no later than June 15, 2007;
  • Consider all factors identified in the Pollution Prevention Planning Notice including the reduction target;
  • Fully implement their pollution prevention plan by June 15, 2010;
  • Keep a copy of their pollution prevention plan at the site for which the plan was prepared;
  • Submit the mandatory reporting forms that are part of the Notice.
  • Provide a copy of their pollution prevention plan to Environment Canada only if requested;

Complying with the legal requirements of the Pollution Prevention Planning Notice is mandatory. Non-compliance with any legal requirement of the Notice is a criminal offence punishable under CEPA 1999.

How much will it cost to prepare a pollution prevention plan for chlorine?

The cost to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans will vary depending on each situation. It is estimated that the cost to prepare a pollution prevention plan should not exceed $20 000.

What is a Pollution Prevention Planning Notice?

It is a legal document that requires certain persons, including municipalities, to prepare and implement a Pollution Prevention Plan. Pollution Prevention Planning Notices are published by the Minister of the Environment to reduce adverse environmental and health risks associated with toxic substances.

What is meant by Pollution Prevention or P2?

Pollution prevention or P2 as it is often referred to, involves finding ways to improve efficiency, reduce waste, and use less toxic chemicals. CEPA 1999 defines pollution prevention as: "The use of processes, practices, materials, products, substances or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste, and reduce the overall risk to the environment or human health."

What is the role of all three levels of government in reducing the threat from wastewater effluents?

Reducing pollution from municipal wastewater treatment plants is everyone's responsibility. The Government of Canada's role in wastewater effluent is administering and enforcing CEPA 1999 and the Fisheries Act to protect the environment and human health from toxic and/or deleterious substances and to provide leadership in the science related to these areas.

Provinces and territories have in place various Acts and regulations that apply to managing wastewater. The provinces and territories approve the design and construction of wastewater collection and treatment systems, issue permits for operations, specify local operating requirements and provide funding to local authorities.

Typically, municipalities or other local authorities construct, operate and maintain wastewater collection and treatment systems. Municipalities also levy local charges or surcharges to users of the system(s) through bylaws and other mechanisms. They can also regulate the discharges to the sewer system from non-residential sources.

How will a facility know if it needs to prepare and implement a pollution prevention plan for chlorine?

An extensive compliance promotion plan is in place to ensure that systems required to prepare a pollution prevention plan are directly contacted by regional Environment Canada staff. Selected systems will also receive a copy of the Notice, instructions how to fill the schedules and prepare a pollution prevention plan, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions document.

Who is required to sign the declarations?

Each declaration must be signed by an official authorized to act on behalf of the organization affected by the requirements.

Do I need to submit a copy of my pollution prevention plan?

Owners of wastewater systems subject to the Notice are required to prepare and implement a pollution prevention plan and submit two declarations to the Minister. The Minister has the authority to require the submission of part or all of a pollution prevention plan for the purposes of determining and assessing preventive or control actions.

Why was the 5 000 m3 per day effluent release threshold chosen?

The 5 000 m3 per day effluent release threshold was chosen partly in response to feedback received during the consultation sessions held in the Fall of 2002 and in consideration of the other criteria intended to select "higher risk" wastewater systems.

Can I use another pollution prevention plan to meet the requirements proposed under CEPA 1999?

Yes. If you do so, it is your responsibility to ensure that your pollution prevention plan addresses all of the requirements in the Notice and that you submit both declarations within the specified timelines.

Why not develop a Fisheries Act regulation?

Environment Canada intends to develop a regulation addressing wastewater effluents under the Fisheries Act as part of the long-term strategy. To be effective, the regulation under the Fisheries Act will need to be comprehensive and be developed taking into account the need to harmonize the regulatory framework with the provinces and territories. The work to develop a Canada-wide Strategy for municipal wastewater effluent is currently under way at the CCME.

Is the completion of a pollution prevention plan under CEPA 1999 adequate to be in compliance with the Fisheries Act?

CEPA 1999 and the Fisheries Act are two different federal statutes. Preparing and implementing a pollution prevention plan under CEPA 1999 does not ensure compliance with the Fisheries Act.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada both enforce the Fisheries Act. Environment Canada enforces subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act across the country in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act. The Policy lays out general principles and explains the roles of regulatory officials with the intent of the Act being administered and enforced in a fair, predictable and consistent manner. As part of the long-term strategy for wastewater effluents it is Environment Canada's intention to develop a regulation under the Fisheries Act.

With regard to the enforcement of the Fisheries Act for municipal wastewater effluents, Environment Canada will consult provincial and territorial counterparts to determine the most suitable approach for responding to potential violations of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. This co-operation will assist in achieving shared objectives of protecting fish habitat and preventing pollution.

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