Ontario Water News

Opportunities and Outcomes for High-Strength Wastewater

WaterTAP’s Trish Johnson (centre) with speakers. Credit: WaterTAP

When they think of “onsite” systems, people often picture septic tanks that cottagers use to treat domestic waste. In practice, onsite systems have the ability to be useful in many more applications. Since these systems can treat flows of up to 10,000 litres per day, industry and businesses are starting to turn to onsite systems as they look for cost-effective solutions to treat high-strength wastewater.

While this trend continues to gather speed, it remains challenging for the onsite industry to implement these solutions. In Ontario, the provincial approvals process was designed with larger wastewater systems in mind. The Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) and WaterTAP’s Better Best Practices Initiative want to work with government to improve this approvals process and make space for onsite solutions.

To this end, on September 21, OOWA and WaterTAP partnered to hold an event to share examples of technologies that are being used by commercial users to treat high-strength wastewater. Guest speakers – Andrew Hellebust, P.Eng., from Rivercourt Engineering; Kathryn Stasiuk, E.I.T., from WSP Canada; Anne Egan, P.Eng., and Ken Kaden, P.Eng., from R. J. Burnside & Associates – kicked off the day with their thoughts on opportunities and challenges, providing examples from current and recent projects.

The presenters and Youssouf Kalogo from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) then held a panel discussion on improving approvals. In this forum, participants discussed ways in which the approvals process can be streamlined to work efficiently and effectively for both government and industry.

Guest speaker Andrew Hellebust provided some examples of how constructed wetlands developed by Aqua Treatment Technologies are being used to pre-treat high-strength winery wastewater in the Niagara Region. Kathryn Stasiuk gave the next presentation, sharing a WSP project that is focused on treating chemotherapy drugs in an onsite system at a summer camp for kids with cancer in in Rosseau, Ontario. In the final presentation of the day, Anne Egan and Ken Kaden presented their challenges with servicing for Cowbell Brewery in Blyth, Ontario. This brewery is North America’s first carbon-neutral brewery and the first in the world to use a closed-loop system.

Opportunity for further collaboration

The “Improving Approvals” panel discussion generated some lively interaction. Many participants voiced concerns about the cumbersome approvals application process that is not geared toward onsite services. The group also identified a need for further clarity and supplemental guidance materials focused on subsurface discharges for flows of 10m3 or less (10,000 L/day or less) and fall under the Ontario Building Code (OBC). In addition, participants noted that the pre-consultation process is often inconsistent, missing involvement from the approvals branch, and only includes technical services in early stages.

As a next step, Youssouf Kalogo of MOECC suggested establishing a working group to collaboratively address ongoing concerns about the approvals process. In addition to the concerns previously noted, some other areas that the working group could explore include:

  • Clarifying the approvals process: Applicants reported that there are inconsistencies in the current approvals process and that the information they are asked to provide in an application can vary depending upon with whom they speak within the Approvals Branch. A working group could delve into this issue to arrive at solutions.
  • Providing more information during the pre-consultation phase: The audience shared a concern that feedback on a project’s design often comes after the application has been submitted, which causes delays in getting the project approval. If there is a clearer understanding of the information required during the pre-consultation phase, issues can be addressed earlier and this would help move the approvals process along more efficiently.
  • Streamlining approval timelines: Currently, the MOECC is working towards approving all applications within a 12-month period to the onsite industry. This timeline is still lengthy and it would be useful to explore how it can be shortened.

What’s next?

The exciting conclusion is that OOWA and WaterTAP are now collaborating to establish a working group with the MOECC in the winter of 2017. This joint effort will go a long way to improving approvals and addressing the challenges tabled by stakeholders during this event.

Stay tuned for an update on the progress and more on this working group at OOWA’s Annual Conference taking place from April 15-17, 2018 in Huntsville.

Simran Chattha is a content writer and strategist at WaterTAP.