Environment Canada Announces Initiatives to Reduce Toxic Substances in Wastewater Effluent

Dec. 8, 2004

As part of the Government of Canada’s ongoing efforts to protect Canadian waters and aquatic life, the Honorable Stéphane Dion, minister of the environment made public two measures aimed at reducing ammonia and chlorine coming from municipal wastewater treatment plants.

The two instruments, pollution prevention planning for chlorine and a guideline for ammonia, are the first components of a long-term strategy for municipal wastewater effluent to ensure that, across the country, the release of wastewater effluents does not pose unacceptable risks to human and ecosystem health and fishery resources.

"All jurisdictions agree that joint cooperative action is necessary to achieve concrete results in reducing these pollutants. This approach is part of the federal efforts to modernize the regulatory process and to meet high standards of environmental protection," said Minister Dion.

In November 2003, federal, provincial and territorial Environment Ministers (through the Council of Canadian Ministers of the Environment) agreed to develop by 2006, a Canada-wide Strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluent. The federal government’s principal tool to implement this strategy will be a regulation under the Fisheries Act. This will protect the environment and human health while aligning with measures by the provinces and municipalities in the planning of their investments for municipal wastewater treatment.

Over the last decade, the Government of Canada has committed more than $12 billion to renew and enhance Canada's public infrastructure. These funds will leverage $30 billion in total infrastructure investments with provincial, territorial and municipal partners, and support large and small communities across Canada. As of July 2004, the Government of Canada has announced over $860 million for more than 2000 projects that improve water and wastewater infrastructure, through the Infrastructure Canada Program.

"In the last Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada reconfirmed its commitment to cities and communities, especially towards infrastructure investments in such areas as water treatment and sewage systems," said Minister Dion. "We are currently working with provincial and municipal partners to invest the additional infrastructure funding, in ways that best reflect regional and local priorities. In the new $1 billion Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund Program, wastewater treatment will be a priority."

The Government of Canada is also committed to the development and commercialization of environmental technologies to help municipalities meet the pollution prevention targets. For instance, research has demonstrated that using ultra-violet and de-chlorination techniques can reduce levels of chlorine at a relatively low-cost to the municipal wastewater treatment plants.

In 2001, ammonia and chlorine in wastewater effluent were determined to be toxic and harmful to a wide variety of fish, and other aquatic life. Environment Canada has consulted extensively to determine the best possible instrument to reduce these substances in wastewater effluents. The pollution prevention planning requirements aim to achieve and maintain a concentration of total residual chlorine that is not acutely toxic in the effluent released to surface water by December 2009. The objective of the guideline for ammonia dissolved in water is to achieve and maintain a concentration of ammonia in the effluent that is not acutely lethal to fish, and does not induce chronic toxicity in the receiving waters.

Source: Environment Canada

Image by Burnham RNG, courtesy twentytwo & brand.