Consultations on wastewater

Current consultations

From June 27, 2020 to December 31, 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is consulting on its proposal to amend the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations on transitional and temporary authorizations.

Transitional authorizations: ECCC is proposing to allow eligible communities another opportunity to receive an extension to comply with the Regulations. The rules to qualify for this extension, and the deadline to upgrade or build a new wastewater treatment facility would remain the same.

Expansion of existing temporary bypass authorization: ECCC is proposing to expand the existing temporary bypass authorizations to include planned releases of wastewater from sewer systems. This approach is considered to improve transparency and lead to the least possible impact on the environment.

More information on proposed amendments can be found in this Notice of Intent or our Consulting with Canadians webpage.

How to participate

ECCC published a discussion document outlining the regulatory proposal online for a 90-day public comment period which ended on March 5, 2022.

What we heard

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) got almost 500 comments throughout the consultation period from municipalities, Indigenous communities and organizations, associations, provinces, non-governmental organizations and industry professionals.

Transitional authorizations

There is general support of the proposed amendments on transitional authorizations, having an open application period and reducing monitoring and reporting burden for smaller communities. While there was support for using data already provided to ECCC, there were recommendations to allow the use of data that is most representative of the current effluent quality. Comments raised the need to take enforcement actions for communities that do not apply for an authorization or do not complete upgrades on time.

The high costs of infrastructure upgrades and the need for the federal government to provide financial support was also a strong concern.

Temporary bypass authorizations

Proposed amendments to expand the temporary bypass authorizations and take a risk-based approach received support. There was an understanding that preventative maintenance is needed. There was support for better environmental oversight and transparency for these bypasses. Comments showed the need to consider a clear approach to assess risk and requirements for different levels of releases. 

Concerns were raised that using a point-based approach is complex and it may be hard to properly determine risk with this approach since each bypass differs in terms of receiving environment, seasonal considerations, flow and treatment. Questions were raised about whether too much focus was being made on receiving environments which are not well defined. There were comments that the sensitivity of the receiving environment may vary temporally based on factors such as species at risk, cumulative effects and whether the area may be used for shellfish harvesting.

Recommendations were made to harmonize timelines and requirements with provincial authorization schemes and concerns whether 14 days is sufficient to review Level 1 authorization requests. There were also recommendations to give a clear process for notifying and engaging Indigenous communities and the public including: the timeframe, the area to be included, and the engagement process. There were recommendations made to ensure that the application process is clear and that guidance material is available.

Administrative improvements

ECCC also received many questions about the process for reporting unauthorized releases under the Regulations and a lack of clarity around reporting these releases under the Fisheries Act. Amendments are proposed to give clarity on requirements and process for reporting these releases directly in the Regulations. 

What’s next

Your feedback and ideas on the regulatory proposal will be taken into consideration as the draft regulations are created.  Publication of the draft regulations in Canada Gazette I is anticipated in 2023. 

For questions or comments, please contact

Videos of previous ECCC presentations on proposed amendments

(For copy of the presentation, please contact us)

Contact us

Wastewater Section

Forest Products and Fisheries Act Division
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 St. Joseph Boulevard, 19th floor
Gatineau QC, K1A 0H3

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