January 3, 2005

Guideline, mandatory P2 plans will control ammonia, chlorine levels in wastewater effluent

Two new federal measures aimed at reducing releases of ammonia and chlorine from municipal wastewater treatment plants are the first components of a long-term, nationwide strategy for municipal wastewater effluent to ensure that the release of wastewater effluents does not pose unacceptable risks to human and ecosystem health and fishery resources. The final notices setting out a guideline for dissolved ammonia in wastewater effluents and requiring the preparation and implementation of pollution prevention plans for inorganic chloramines and chlorinated wastewater effluents were published in the December 4, 2004 Canada Gazette, Part I.

"All jurisdictions agree that joint co-operative 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 Federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion.

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 guideline is issued as an instrument respecting preventive and control actions in relation to ammonia dissolved in water found in wastewater effluents in application of section 92 of CEPA. The objective of the guideline 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. Ammonia dissolved in water is a substance specified on the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

The pollution prevention planning requirements aim to achieve and maintain, by December 2009, a concentration of total residual chlorine that is not acutely toxic in the effluent released to surface water. Last June, a proposed notice requiring the preparation and implementation of such plans was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I for a 60-day comment period. The Environment Minister has considered all comments received and has published a Response to Stakeholders' Comments summarizing how the comments were addressed.

In November 2003, federal, provincial and territorial Environment Ministers (through the Council of Canadian Ministers of 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.

In addition, the federal government has committed more than $12 billion over the past decade 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. By July 2004, over $860 million had been earmarked by Ottawa for more than 2000 projects designed to improve water and wastewater infrastructure; the funding comes from the Infrastructure Canada program. Dion further noted that "in the new $1-billion Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund program, wastewater treatment will be a priority."

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