Response to Stakeholders' Comments on the Proposed Notice Requiring the Preparation and Implementation of Pollution Prevention Plans for Ammonia Dissolved in Water, Inorganic Chloramines and Chlorinated Wastewater Effluents, under CEPA 1999

On June 7, 2003, Environment Canada published in the Canada Gazette for comment, a Proposed Notice of a draft instrument under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) for ammonia dissolved in water (ammonia), and inorganic chloramines and chlorinated wastewater effluents (chlorine). For simplicity, these substances will be referred to as ammonia and chlorine in this document. The draft instrument in the Proposed Notice was a requirement for pollution prevention planning for both ammonia and chlorine. This document outlines the comments received on the Proposed Notice and how they have been addressed.

During the 60-day comment period, Environment Canada received submissions covering a wide variety of issues. Additional comments were received after the initial comment period. All the comments received have been considered in finalizing the CEPA instruments. This document summarizes the comments received under themes, without attributing any comment to any particular person or organization.

The comments received indicated opposition to the use of pollution prevention planning. Most of the comments were provided by owners of wastewater systems or associations representing them. The concerns focused on: the requirement to report to the federal Minister of the Environment, the potential for duplication of efforts between the federal and provincial/territorial governments, and the intrinsic difficulties and costs associated with managing ammonia. Many comments centered on the need for harmonization with the Provinces and Territories. Most of the comments related to the management of ammonia; very few comments specifically referred to chlorine.

Since the publication of the proposed instrument in June 2003, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) agreed, in November 2003, to develop a Canada- wide Strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluents. The Strategy, to be completed by December 2006, will include:

  1. a harmonized regulatory framework;
  2. coordinated science and research;
  3. an environmental risk management model.

As indicated in the Proposed Notice, Environment Canada intends to develop a regulation for municipal wastewater effluent under the Fisheries Act. 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 developed for ammonia 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 is consistent with a long-term management strategy for municipal wastewater effluents.

The final instrument for ammonia is a CEPA Guideline. This reflects the numerous comments received on ammonia and the development of a Canada-wide Strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluents announced by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in November 2003. The Guideline maintains the intent of the proposed Pollution Prevention Planning instrument.

The CEPA guideline for ammonia includes standards for both acute and chronic toxicity. With regard to acute toxicity, the effluent should not contain an acutely lethal concentration of ammonia as defined in the Guideline. In the case of chronic toxicity, the guideline refers to the CCME Canadian Water Quality Guideline for the protection of freshwater life and the Priority Substance List (PSL) Assessment Report where additional guidance can be found.

The Guideline is aimed at owners of wastewater systems discharging 5 000 cubic metres or more of effluent per day (approximately equivalent to a population of 10 000) to surface water. Based on the information available to Environment Canada, including data provided by the Provinces and Territories, a maximum of approximately 280 wastewater systems meet the flow criterion.

The proposed Notice requiring certain owners of wastewater systems to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans for inorganic chloramines and chlorinated wastewater effluents was finalized, taking into account the comments received. The Notice requires pollution prevention planning in respect of inorganic chloramines and chlorinated wastewater effluents from owners of wastewater systems where the effluent release to surface water is greater than or equal to 5 000 cubic metres per day and exceeds 0.02 mg/L of total residual chlorine in the effluent. It is estimated that 95 wastewater systems using chlorine will be subject to the requirement to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans for chlorine. The majority of these installations are located in Ontario, with others located in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

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 mg/L in the effluent released to surface water by December 15, 2009.

As stated in the Notice, the Minister of the Environment requires that owners subject to the Notice submit to Environment Canada a Declaration of Preparation prior to July 15, 2007 and a Declaration of Implementation prior to July 15, 2010.

There was opposition to the approach proposed by Environment Canada. Twenty five municipal councils have forwarded resolutions to the Minister indicating this opposition.

It was asked that the Proposed Notice be withdrawn and that an alternative instrument be developed.

Based on the comments received and the analysis in the assessment report that led to the decision to add chlorine and ammonia to the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), Environment Canada changed the proposed risk management instrument for ammonia from pollution prevention planning requirements under CEPA 1999 to a CEPA Guideline. For ammonia, the CEPA Guideline maintains the same intent as the Proposed Notice (i.e. the protection of the environment and fish habitat). This approach acknowledges that the CCME is engaged in developing a Canada-wide Strategy by December 2006.

The Notice requiring pollution prevention planning for chlorine was adjusted taking into account the technical comments received. It is based on the same selection criteria and risk management objective as the Proposed Notice.

Pollution prevention is not an appropriate tool to reduce ammonia discharges.

The pollution prevention instrument for ammonia was modified to a guideline.

The pollution prevention planning instrument is new and may require explanation as to its application for chlorine for municipal wastewater effluent. Instructions and documentation have been prepared to provide further explanation. In addition, compliance promotion activities will be carried out, including workshops and site visits.

Several comments requested that the proposed instrument should be postponed until the federal long-term strategy and CCME process are developed.

It was suggested that the CEPA instrument is out of sequence in the overall management of municipal wastewater.

In reviewing CEPA in 1998, Parliament introduced legislated timelines for the development of preventive or control instruments addressing substances on the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999. The fact that the CCME agreed to develop a Canada-wide Strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluents does not affect the requirements of CEPA 1999. Environment Canada maintains its intention to meet the requirements of the Act, and to promote pollution prevention planning by owners of wastewater systems with a view to achieving equivalent to conventional secondary treatment for all facilities.

Several comments referred to the need for the federal government to coordinate with provinces to administer the instrument to minimize duplication of regulation and to provide a "one window" approach for municipalities and to coordinate: timing, reporting, new requirements, funding mechanism, etc.

The existing regulatory regime on the management of municipal wastewater effluents includes a number of Acts and regulations administered by federal, provincial and territorial governments with varying standards.

The CCME Canada-wide Strategy will address the issues related to duplication and provide a "one window" approach once jurisdictions have implemented a harmonized regulatory regime to achieve consistent standards.

Several comments relating to costs were received:

The requirement for pollution prevention planning is not intended, in itself, to drive infrastructure investment. The development of pollution prevention plans will have to include the identification of future investments, both in terms of process and actual infrastructure, needed to improve wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure

Based on the information available to Environment Canada, including data provided by provinces and territories, it is estimated that 95 wastewater systems in 77 different municipalities may have to prepare pollution prevention plans.

New requirements should require cost-benefit analysis, balancing available, practical, affordable treatment technologies against the environmental benefits to be gained.

The federal government has for some time advocated full- cost accounting and user/polluter pay principles for water and wastewater services.

Environment Canada recognizes that a key aspect of addressing the risks associated with wastewater effluents is the financing needed to upgrade and/or construct wastewater collection and treatment facilities.

Until the CCME Strategy has been developed and consistent national standards are established, it is not possible to estimate with any certainty the costs related to achieving these standards.

Several comments requested that more funding (e.g. Green Municipal Funds and/or other infrastructure funding) is needed to help smaller municipalities implement pollution prevention actions such as source control.

The Government of Canada has made a substantial commitment to assist municipalities with infrastructure funding pressures. There are currently several federal programs that collectively provide over $6B in federal funding to assist municipalities to upgrade or construct new infrastructure: the Green Municipal Funds ($250M), managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM); the Infrastructure Canada Program ($2.05B); and the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund ($4B). The Government of Canada has also created the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund ($1B) which is designed to support smaller scale municipal infrastructure projects. These funds generally work on a shared cost basis; one- third of the overall cost of the project is paid by each of the three orders of government.

Through the New Deal for Canada's Cities and Communities, and working with the provinces and territories, the federal government intends to make available, for the benefit of municipalities, a portion of the federal gas tax, growing over the next five years. These funds will enable municipalities to make long-term financial commitments needed to help contain urban sprawl and to invest in new sustainable infrastructure projects in areas like transit, roads, clean water and sewers.

Municipalities do not have the funding, time or expertise for sophisticated source control programs or sewer use by-laws to identify the concentrations or quantities of ammonia from industrial, commercial and industrial facilities.

Source control programs are essential for the proper management of wastewater collection and treatment systems. These programs provide the most efficient way of controlling specific substances directly at source. For more information, refer to the series of documents InfraGuide: Innovations and Best Practices.

Sources of high ammonia concentrations are usually relatively few and known.

Environment Canada received a few comments requesting the clarification of definitions for Total Chlorine, Residual Chlorine, ammonia nitrogen, total ammonia, and pollution prevention.

The definitions of ammonia in the Guideline and total residual chlorine have been modified for clarity and simplicity.

A definition for pollution prevention is included in the Factors to Consider section of the Notice. Pollution prevention focuses on preventing the generation of pollution in the first place while pollution control generally refers to the methods, processes, tools and techniques for controlling the release of pollution after it has been generated.

The definition of "wastewater collection system" should be narrowed to include only infrastructure associated with wastewater treatment.

The definition of wastewater in the Notice and Guideline has been changed to focus on a mixture of liquid wastes primarily composed of domestic sewage that can also include other liquid wastes from industrial, commercial and institutional sources. A "wastewater system" is defined as any works for the collection or treatment and release of wastewater, or any part of such works.

"Effluent" should be defined as "untreated, partially treated or treated wastewater that is released during non-emergency dry weather conditions to surface water from a wastewater collection or treatment system."

Environment Canada has adjusted the definition of "effluent" in the Notice and Guideline to reflect that the focus of activities is on wastewater released from the outfall(s) of a wastewater system, excluding combined sewer overflows.

Some noted that the number of municipalities affected by these new requirements to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans is not known.

Based on the information available to Environment Canada and data provided by the provinces and territories, Environment Canada estimates that approximately 95 wastewater systems in 77 municipalities will be subject to the Notice with respect to chlorine. A maximum of approximately 280 systems in 235 municipalities will be subject to the guidelines for ammonia.

A few requested Environment Canada to provide better rationale and background pertaining to the selection criteria and to clarify the term "at any time".

The term "at any time" was removed from the selection criteria and replaced with "in any sample" based on representative sampling. The instrument is not intended to drive owners of wastewater systems to purchase continuous monitoring equipment. "Representative sampling" is defined as the daily measurement of total residual chlorine or weekly measurement of ammonia in the effluent under normal operating conditions of the wastewater treatment facility.

The requirement should apply to all federal facilities/lands, and to "municipal" wastewater treatment systems covered by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 221320.

The Pollution Prevention Planning Notice for chlorine and the Guideline for ammonia apply to all facilities discharging 5 000 cubic metres per day or more to surface water.

Federal facilities follow the Guidelines for Effluent Quality and Wastewater Treatment at Federal Establishments which recommend a minimum secondary level of treatment and an effluent that is free from materials which are toxic to aquatic life.

Industries already regulated under the Fisheries Act, -- e.g. pulp and paper mills that release wastewater which includes a small amount of domestic or municipal "wastewater", should not be subject to the pollution prevention planning Notice.

The definition of wastewater has been adjusted so that only those wastewater systems that contain primarily sewage will be required to prepare a pollution prevention plan or be subject to the guideline. Pulp and paper mills are subject to the 1992 Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act.

Municipalities that discharge to salt water should not be exempted.

The Notice for chlorine and Guideline for ammonia address both freshwater and marine environments.

The CCME Canada-wide Strategy for the management of wastewater is expected to address both freshwater and marine environments.

Some comments focussed on the volume criterion:

The 5 000 m3/day effluent volume criterion remains unchanged. This volume of effluent released to surface water focuses on the systems that pose a higher risk to the aquatic environment. This volume is equivalent to the amount of effluent that would be generated by a community with a population of approximately 10 000.

At the time of updating the NPRI reporting requirements for the municipal wastewater sector, Environment Canada will take into account the progress made in the management of municipal wastewater effluents and make appropriate changes.

Instead of a set volume, Environment Canada should specify a percentage of effluent volume in relation to the volume or flow of the receiving water body.

The measurement of daily effluent flow is a fairly simple procedure. Determination of the percentage of effluent volume in relation to the volume or flow of the receiving water body is much more difficult. A valid estimation of such a complex parameter would require site-specific determinations.

A few comments indicated that the total residual chlorine (TRC) criterion is too stringent. The level 0.02 mg/L TRC is too low to detect accurately using field equipment. Environment Canada should allow the measurement of a detectable level of dechlorinating agent as an alternative to TRC.

Environment Canada contacted several manufacturers of field test equipment in order to ascertain the detection limit of TRC. Environment Canada has confirmed that field measurement equipment is available to accurately measure concentrations of TRC to 0.02 mg/L.

Alternatively, measurement of the dechlorination agent is allowed as a means to ensure that there is no total residual chlorine remaining in the effluent being discharged to surface water.

One comment suggested that samples should be based on "representative grab samples" as allowed under current technology and regulatory regimes.

The terminology in the Notice and Guideline now uses "representative sampling".

Environment Canada has provided further guidance related to sampling, measurement techniques (including measurement of the dechlorination agent as an acceptable alternative to measurement of TRC) and reporting of total residual chlorine in the Instructions that accompany the Notice.

Sampling for ammonia needs to be better defined in terms of one-time spikes in levels and combined sewers and overflows. Sample type (e.g. composite 24 hour) and frequency need to be specified.

The Guideline recommends the adoption of a monitoring program with regularly scheduled weekly sampling.

More frequent analysis will improve the information available to owners to make appropriate decisions addressing ammonia reductions.

Combined sewer overflows have been specifically excluded from the Guideline.

One comment suggested that instead of expressing ammonia as a concentration which increases with water conservation, it could be expressed as a loading.

The PSL assessment report concluded that freshwater organisms are most at risk due to the toxicity of ammonia. The toxicity of a substance is measured in terms of concentration and exposure time.

Excessive nutrients or eutrophication are better addressed through loadings, and on a watershed basis. Provinces and Territories address the specific nutrient loading aspect, where required, in their respective permits or certificates of approval.

There is a need for a scientific explanation of why 16 mg/L ammonia nitrogen and pH 7.5 in summer was selected as a Nation-wide standard for protecting aquatic life.

The level of ammonia (16 mg/L) is too high because it is an important parameter for the survival of fish in fresh water. The level should be lowered to 5 mg/L to be more protective.

The 16 mg/L ammonia nitrogen criterion is not used in the Guideline.

The protection of aquatic life is ensured by achieving an effluent quality where the concentration of ammonia being discharged to the receiving environment is not acutely lethal. Acute lethality due to ammonia is determined by the combination of pH and ammonia concentration in the effluent that is on or above the curve in Appendix A of the Guideline for the Release of Ammonia Dissolved in Water Found in Wastewater Effluents.

As documented in the PSL assessment report, for chronic toxicity, site-specific characteristics are used to determine the risk to the environment, specifically, high temperature and pH combined with low flow of the receiving water.

Environment Canada received several comments regarding mixing zones:

The Guideline for ammonia and the pollution prevention planning requirement for chlorine do not refer to a mixing zone.

Exempting municipalities with deep outfalls and/or diffusers is unfair to those whose effluents are also quickly mixed and diluted by receiving water bodies.

The depth/diameter criterion is not considered in either the CEPA guideline for ammonia or the Pollution Prevention Planning requirement for chlorine.

Would the installation of diffusers satisfy the CCME water quality value?

The decision to install diffusers needs to be based on the characteristics of the receiving environment and the effluent quality.

Requirements and limits for TRC should be in line with provincial permits or Certificates of Approval. It is inappropriate for the federal government to require a limit lower than that of the provincial regulator and the operating permit.

Based on the information available to Environment Canada and data provided by the provinces and territories, it appears that few provincial or territorial certificates or permits specify effluent discharge limits for total residual chlorine of 0.02 mg/L. Environment Canada has concluded that there is very little, if any, duplication in terms of permitted limits.

Replacing chlorine disinfection with higher energy-requiring technologies such as ultraviolet (UV) disinfection will be out of line with requirements to reduce energy use to meet Kyoto targets.

While UV disinfection requires an increase in energy use, the global impact to the environment is not known. The overall environmental impact of using chlorination/dechlorination versus UV disinfection is difficult to determine when based on a life cycle analysis that takes into account transportation concerns, health and safety issues, and environmental emergency preparedness requirements associated with the handling of chlorine. The use of one disinfection technology over another is a decision that resides with the individual municipalities.

A few comments indicated that Environment Canada should review the scientific basis for including ammonia on the list of toxic substances or consider actual risk and impacts to the receiving environment since it is non-persistent and is a product of the wastewater collection and treatment system.

Based on the recommendation from an Expert Panel, Environment Canada reviewed the scientific information related to ammonia and conducted a thorough assessment of the risks posed to the environment and human health. The Priority Substance List (PSL) assessment report, completed in 2001, was peer reviewed and concluded that ammonia dissolved in water was entering the environment in quantities or concentrations that have or may have an immediate or long term harmful effect on the environment and its biological diversity. The PSL report also indicated that priority should be given to consideration of options to reduce exposure to ammonia from municipal wastewater systems taking into account site-specific conditions.

The proposed instrument should take into account integrated watershed management and source water protection.

The instrument does not specifically refer to watershed management. Addressing watershed issues is not considered within the scope of this initial step in the longer term approach to managing municipal wastewater effluents.

Many comments asked for the clarification and rationalization of the risk management objective for ammonia to "reduce to the fullest extent".

The risk management objective for ammonia to "reduce to the fullest extent" used in the draft Notice does not appear in the Guideline.

The CEPA Guideline refers to specific objectives related to acute and chronic toxicity for ammonia.

Municipalities should investigate toxicity of ammonia in their local receiving environment (i.e. Environmental Effects Monitoring) and determine the end of pipe limit.

Persons subject to the Guideline should develop a plan for the reduction of ammonia concentrations in their effluent. In the case of chronic toxicity and the receiving environment, additional guidance can be found in the CCME guidelines for the protection of aquatic life and the PSL assessment report for ammonia.

Environment Canada received a few comments asking for clarification of the terms "shall consider" and "required to consider". Specifically, what constitutes consideration of a "Factor to Consider"? What is the difference between "shall consider" versus "is required to consider"? More guidance is needed on what "must" be included in the pollution prevention plan.

Environment Canada has specified a number of Factors that owners must take into consideration while developing their pollution prevention plans. The Department believes that to consider means to give attention to, to take into account, to examine the listed Factors when designing one's pollution prevention plan. Consideration of a Factor could consist of an activity or action taken in response to the Factor, to help in decision-making, such as reviewing changes to a process or operation, assessing different options, conducting an analysis for improving a wastewater treatment system. Persons subject to the Notice will determine the content of their pollution prevention plan and how to address each Factor in relation to the unique circumstances of each wastewater system.

Other substances should not be included as part of the pollution prevention plan, they should be addressed separately with their own Risk Management Objectives.

Environment Canada considers that the management of municipal wastewater requires a comprehensive approach implemented over time.

A number of other toxic substances on Schedule 1 of CEPA are released through municipal wastewater effluents. Environment Canada encourages owners of wastewater systems to consider actions to reduce or eliminate risks posed by these other toxic substances.

At this time, Environment Canada does not propose any specific objectives for these substances. However, it is the intention of Environment Canada to have these substances taken into account in developing the CCME Canada-wide Strategy.

Timelines for the preparation and submission of declarations are confusing and should be better defined.

The timelines are clearly stated in the Notice. The Instructions for completing the Schedules contain more information regarding the timelines and the declarations. The instruction insert also includes a chart which identifies the specific dates for completing and submitting information to Environment Canada such as the Declaration of Preparation and the Declaration of Implementation.

Timelines for completing actions may take more than 48 months and should be commensurate with due diligence and left to the professional judgment of system managers, based on economic, social and environmental constraints.

Environment Canada recognizes that significant changes to wastewater treatment facilities require long-term planning. Section 13 of the Notice allows for owners to request a time extension by completing Schedule 3 of the Notice. As municipalities develop their pollution prevention plans, they should be aware of the development of the CCME Canada-wide Strategy to be completed by December 2006 which will include other toxic and harmful substances found in wastewater.

Deadlines for submitting and amending declarations should be increased from 30 to 60 days. Changes to the pollution prevention plan should be allowed to be reported annually. This would allow enough time to recognize problems, confirm information, write submissions and gain approvals.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 Part 4 requires that declarations be filed within 30 days after the date specified in the Notice, and that amended declarations be filed to the Minister within 30 days after the declaration has become false or misleading.

Environment Canada received one comment requesting that pollution prevention plan schedules should allow entry of information for multiple systems and for both chlorinated substances and ammonia. This would mean that only one pollution prevention plan needs to be prepared and implemented.

A single pollution prevention plan may be prepared for several wastewater systems but Declarations must be prepared for each system. The schedules for the chlorine Notice only allow information from one system at a time.

Environment Canada should clarify expectations for monitoring parameters in the receiving environment (e.g. water temperature). Information about parameters in the receiving environment may not be available (e.g. pH, dilution).

The Schedules and Instructions for the Notice provide owners of wastewater systems with the necessary monitoring parameters for chlorine.

Pollution prevention plans should be subject to local public consultation before and after they are implemented.

The decision to engage the public in the development and implementation of pollution prevention plans is up to each owner. The Schedules submitted to the Minister will be posted on the CEPA Registry.

A regulation under the Fisheries Act should be developed, or the Act modified, to specify what levels of pollutants are allowed to be discharged from municipal wastewater treatment plants and storm drainage systems. This would provide better protection for municipalities against litigation for being out of compliance with the Fisheries Act.

As stated in the Proposed Notice published in June 2003, Environment Canada intends to use a regulation under the Fisheries Act as its principal implementation tool to achieve effluent standards for wastewater systems equivalent in performance to secondary treatment, with additional treatment where required. Such a regulation would be drafted to implement standards set out in the CCME Canada-wide Strategy for municipal wastewater effluent which is scheduled for completion in 2006.

Some indicated that Municipal Councils and their professional staff are concerned that information in pollution prevention plans could lead to liability and prosecution under the Fisheries Act. Owners complying with pollution prevention planning requirements should know beforehand if they will be out of compliance with the Fisheries Act.

Preparing and implementing a pollution prevention plan and filing a Declaration of Preparation and a Declaration of Implementation in a manner, format and time specified by the Minister of Environment are legal obligations for persons subject to the Notice. Not doing so may constitute an offence under CEPA 1999. Providing information to Environment Canada through such reports will not change the existing state of compliance of a wastewater system with the Fisheries Act.

If there is a suspected violation of s.36(3) of the Fisheries Act, Environment Canada will review available information in order to verify the state of compliance. Appropriate actions will be determined based on the evidence and extent of preventive or corrective actions that are being implemented by the alleged offender.

One comment requested that a list of entities required to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans be published.

Declarations for pollution prevention plans, including the progress made toward meeting the risk management objectives, will be made publicly available on the CEPA Registry.

A few comments stated that it is not clear what enforcement mechanisms will ensure compliance with the pollution prevention planning instrument, especially if federal requirements address the same substances as existing provincial/territorial legislation.

Owners of wastewater systems meeting the criteria for the preparation of pollution prevention plans for chlorine have to comply with the requirements of CEPA 1999. There may be other provincial/territorial requirements addressing the same substances that will also apply.

Environment Canada officials use the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) in order to secure compliance with the Act. This will be done through two types of activity: compliance promotion and enforcement. The choice of the appropriate set of measures to secure compliance, and the responses to alleged violations, will be determined on a case-by-case basis, and in accordance with the Policy.

Compliance promotion activities will provide additional information to stakeholders on the requirements of the Notice and Guideline.

Page details

Date modified: