Overview of the wastewater systems effluent regulations
The Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (the Regulations), under the Fisheries Act, address the largest point source of pollution in Canadian waters. The Regulations reduce the threats to fish, fish habitat and human health by reducing the level of pollutants going into Canadian waterways from wastewater.
The Regulations authorize the release of wastewater effluent under strict conditions. They set minimum effluent quality standards for carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, un-ionized ammonia and total residual chlorine. These standards are designed to be achievable through secondary wastewater treatment. The owners or operators of wastewater systems must monitor and report the quality of their effluent to show that they are meeting the standards.
The Regulations apply to wastewater systems:
- that collect an average daily volume of 100 m3 or more of influent and deposit wastewater effluent to water frequented by fish or to a place that could reach these waters.
The Regulations do not apply in:
- Northwest Territories, or
- north of the 54th parallel in Québec or Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Regulations do not apply in Yukon and to certain wastewater systems in Québec. Equivalency agreements for the Regulations came into effect with Yukon in November 2014 and with Québec in October 2018.
Owners or operators of wastewater systems must submit an identification report within 45 days after their system comes into operation. Information needed for the identification report include things like:
- location of wastewater system
- owner and operator information
- type of wastewater treatment
- size of wastewater system
Any changes or new information on your wastewater system must be submitted within 45 days of the change.
Owners and operators must submit monitoring reports regularly. Monitoring reports provide information on effluent quality to make sure wastewater systems are meeting the standards of the Regulations.
Wastewater systems report either once a year or four times a year. Information on system type and size determines how often you report.
For owners or operators of wastewater systems that report four times a year, the deadlines are:
- Quarter 1 (January 1 to March 31) - May 15
- Quarter 2 (April 1 to June 30) - August 14
- Quarter 3 (July 1 to September 30) - November 14
- Quarter 4 (October 1 to December 31) - February 14
For wastewater systems that report once a year, the deadline is:
- Annual (January 1 to December 31) - February 14
Combined sewer overflow reports
In older cities, sewage and stormwater are often carried together in combined sewers. Heavy storms and snowmelt can cause effluent to be released from these combined sewers.
Owners or operators of wastewater systems with at least one combined sewer overflow point are required to report:
- the number of days that effluent was released
- the volume of effluent deposited from each overflow point for each month of the year.
Owners and operators must submit combined sewer overflow reports once per year by February 15.
There are three authorizations that allow the release of effluent that does not meet the effluent quality standards. Authorizations are for specific reasons and are time limited. The authorizations are:
- Transitional authorizations – extensions to allow facilities to upgrade their systems
- Temporary bypass authorizations – authorizations to exceed the standards of the regulations for maintenance and construction activities
- Temporary authorization to deposit un-ionized ammonia – for systems complying with the effluent quality standards but have issues with ammonia
You can apply for an authorization through the online reporting system.
For more information on a number of topics, you can review factsheets below.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environmental Protection Branch
Industrial Sectors and Chemicals Directorate
351 St. Joseph Blvd, 19th Floor
Gatineau, Québec K1A 0H3
Note that the above information is intended to provide guidance only and is not a substitute for reading the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations and does not in any way supersede or modify the Fisheries Act or the Regulations. In the event of an inconsistency between this information and the Act and/or the Regulations, the Act and the Regulations prevail.
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