Xylem-2017-BNR Mixing
Authors Posts by Peter Davey

Peter Davey


Aerial view of Hudson Bay
Aerial view of Hudson Bay on Big Rideau Lake. The McCann Solar project is visible to the south.

Aecon Construction and Materials Ltd. pleaded guilty to two offences and was fined $120,000 for discharging a material into water that may impair the quality of the water and failing to report the discharge, contrary to the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA). The company was also issued a Court Order requiring that a fish habitat embayment is constructed within the Rideau River watershed.

Aecon Construction and Materials Ltd. operates a construction business and builds major infrastructure projects across Canada.

According to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), a renewable energy approval was issued to Northland Power Solar McCann Inc. on February 29, 2012, to construct and operate the McCann Solar Project, a 10 megawatt solar generation facility located on McCann Road in the Township of Rideau Lakes. The project site is located a few hundred metres to the south of Hudson Bay on Big Rideau Lake.

Aerial view of Hudson Bay
Aerial view of Hudson Bay on Big Rideau Lake. The McCann Solar project (bottom-centre) is located south of the bay.

Northland Power Solar McCann Inc. contracted the company to build the project and construction commenced in mid-2012 and continued throughout 2013.

According to the MOECC, it received complaints on January 31, 2013 and April 15, 2013, that sediment laden stormwater and runoff was being discharged into Hudson Bay on Big Rideau Lake and that the source was believed to be construction activities at the McCann Project. The MOECC said its staff was provided assurances that measures would be taken to address the discharges.

The MOECC said it received another complaint regarding the discharge of sediment laden water on May 23, 2013.

A ministry provincial officer conducted an inspection and observed significant sediment outside of the project’s fenced area and water in the watercourse was discoloured.

The officer then examined Hudson Bay in Big Rideau Lake and observed that the southern portion of the bay exhibited a brown discolouring.

Samples found concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS) that significantly exceeded water quality guidelines. Suspended solids may potentially impair water quality and can potentially kill fish.

The matter was referred to the ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch and, following an investigation, charges were laid.

On February 8, 2017, Aecon Construction and Materials was convicted of two offences, was fined $120,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $30,000 and was given one year to pay the fine. The company was also issued a Court Order to ensure that a fish habitat embayment is constructed in the Rideau River Watershed at a cost to the company that shall be no greater than a maximum of $150,000, either in direct expenditures or in-kind services billed on a cost recovery basis.

For more information, visit: www.news.ontario.ca

aerial view of west point wastewater treatment plant
West Point wastewater treatment plant in Seattle, Washington. Photo: www.kingcounty.gov

Crews are working to restore normal operations at King County’s West Point wastewater treatment plant in Seattle, following an early morning equipment failure on February 9, 2017, that led to the plant’s shutdown.

West Point has a secondary treatment capacity of 300 million gallons (113,5623 m3) per day, and primary treatment and disinfection capacity for flows between 300 to 440 million gallons (113,5623 m3 – 166,5581 m3) per day.

According to King County, an effluent pump station went offline at a time when the plant was receiving high levels of stormwater and wastewater and dealing with very high tides. It was operating at maximum capacity and was threatened with being flooded.

Approximately 260 million gallons (984,200 m3) of combined stormwater and wastewater was diverted to an emergency bypass outlet in Puget Sound. The County said the bypass discharge lasted 19 hours and consisted of 85-90% stormwater and 10-15% sewage. During this time, up to 200 million gallons (757,082 m3) of wastewater was diverted to other treatment facilities in the regional system.

As a result of the emergency, King County warned people to avoid contact with the water and posted warning signs on nearby beach areas. In addition, Kitsap Public Health District issued a no-contact advisory and shellfish harvesting closure for nearby shorelines on February 9.

Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper, an environmental watchdog group, told the Seattle Times that the amount of untreated sewage dumped so far comprises about one-fifth of the typical overflow amount for the area’s sewers annually.

For more information, visit: www.kingcounty.gov

touring the Lethbridge Biogas facility
Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office touring the Lethbridge Biogas facility with Stefan Michalski, director of operations.

Bioenergy is low-carbon energy or fuel made from agricultural products such as crops and livestock waste. The government of Alberta is committing $60-million to its Bioenergy Producer Program that it says will support 500 direct jobs and help companies succeed in the province’s low-carbon future. The province says that money for this grant will come from carbon revenues.

Through the program, 31 companies will receive short-term funding to support the low-carbon industry.

The short-term funding will keep operations going, while a third-party adviser and other stakeholders advise government on new policy options to support the industry and build on a program begun in 2006. A report is expected by the end of March.

The grant recipients all produce biofuels, electricity, heat or wood pellets that help make greenhouse gas reductions in Alberta. The grants are production-based, meaning money is provided based on how much bioenergy each company generates. All types of bioenergy are funded at the same rate.

Of the facilities getting money, three are under construction. According to the provincial government, this means new jobs and over $200 million in new investment. The grants will help keep 1.5 megatonnes of emissions out of the air.

According to the Alberta government, the province’s bioenergy industry powers the equivalent of 200,000 homes, using wood pellets, biogas and liquid biofuels. The industry contributes about $800 million to Alberta’s economy.

For more information, visit: www.alberta.ca

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The Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan announced funding for a new wastewater treatment facility in the Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte on January 31, 2017. Construction of a new centralized lagoon aims to improve the reliability and performance of wastewater collection and treatment for Frenchman Butte, as well as the Village of Paradise Hill and the Town of St. Walburg.

According to a government press release, this new infrastructure will protect the local environment, while accommodating future population growth—effectively doubling the current system’s capacity.

The governments of Canada and Saskatchewan are each contributing up to $4,166,667 for this project. The Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte No. 501 will be responsible for all remaining costs of the project, which is also being shared by the Village of Paradise Hill and the Town of St. Walburg. The total eligible project cost is $12.5 million.

For more information, visit: www.saskatchewan.ca

newfoundland and labrador map

Newfoundland and Labrador announced millions in funding for two wastewater projects in the province on February 13, 2017.


Over $22 million in joint funding was committed to a new wastewater treatment plant for the town of Gander (pop. 13,400).

The new plant and 2.5 kilometres of new piping will increase the performance and capacity of the town’s existing treatment system and ensure that it can meet federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations, said the provincial government.

The federal government is contributing up to $11.68 million, or one-third of the project cost. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is contributing $10.37 million, and Gander will cover the remaining project costs.

Grand Falls-Windsor

Funding for the expansion of Grand Falls-Windsor’s wastewater treatment facility was also announced on Monday. The town of Grand Falls-Windsor is located in central Newfoundland and has a population of 14,000.

Improvements will allow for the addition of secondary level treatment at the town’s wastewater treatment facility, ensuring it can meet current federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations and reduce the amount of waste discharged into regional waterways, the government said.

Funding for the estimated $9.75 million project comes from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador ($3.58 million); the government of Canada ($3.25 million); and the Town of Grand Falls–Windsor ($2.93 million).

According to the provincial government’s news release, the upgrades will also provide the necessary capacity to address residential and commercial growth across the region.

For more information, visit: www.releases.gov.nl.ca

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Ecofish Research Ltd. announced on January 27, 2017, the acquisition of ECODynamic Solutions Inc. (EDS), a  environmental construction monitoring firm located in Courtenay, B.C.

A construction environmental management and monitoring firm, EDS serves clients in the hydro, mining, urban, linear development, and government sectors in western Canada. With a staff of recognized experts in the field of construction monitoring, EDS has an excellent reputation among regulatory agencies and clients, including BC Hydro, Brookfield Renewable, AltaGas and Alterra Power Corp, according to a press release.

Ecofish Research began in Vancouver in 2001 and provides environmental assessment, monitoring, mitigation, offsetting and design services for clients in industry, government and First Nations.

Since 2005, Ecofish and EDS have teamed on major development projects and solved challenging environmental problems in all project phases.  Ecofish said that by binding the successful association within a single firm, it will continuously increase service value to a growing client list.

With a larger and more diverse team, Ecofish said it can provide effective, reliable environmental construction monitoring and assessment services across key industries, to private clients, First Nations and regulatory agencies.

For more information on the acquisition, visit: www.ecofishresearch.com


GE’s Water & Process Technologies today announced it is collaborating with the University of Guelph on a wastewater research initiative to maximize renewable energy generation and simultaneously produce a pathogen-free biosolids fertilizer.

Government, university officials and company executives gathered today for the grand opening of the new pilot, located at the Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC) wastewater demonstration facility adjacent to the City of Guelph wastewater treatment plant.

According to GE, the pilot is the first large-scale project to receive funding under the SOWC’s Advancing Water Technologies (AWT) program, which supports collaborative, industry-led technology development projects. SOWC is funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The AWT program is supplying nearly $600,000 to collaborators for this project. In addition, GE is investing $900,000 in infrastructure and support.

“This first large AWT project epitomizes what SOWC is all about,” said SOWC Executive Director Brenda Lucas. “We are connecting the needs of industry with Ontario’s academic expertise and enabling real-world testing in unique facilities to help bring innovative technologies to market.”

GE said its goal is to shift wastewater treatment from a burden to an opportunity, where valuable resources can be extracted—namely renewable energy, clean water and fertilizer. Enhancing anaerobic digestion through biological hydrolysis technology is one of the keys to realizing this goal, according to GE.

Biological hydrolysis technology maximizes the efficiency of existing anaerobic digestion infrastructure by increasing its throughput capacity by up to three times. This enables plant owners to not only treat more sludge, but potentially other organic materials, dramatically increasing biogas production that can be converted to renewable energy. At the same time, a pathogen-free fertilizer product is produced.

“We are very pleased to support this demonstration of our biological hydrolysis technology,” said Glenn Vicevic, executive, product management—GE’s Water & Process Technologies. “This pilot project further validates the viability of energy neutral wastewater treatment that can produce valuable resources in the form of clean water, renewable energy and fertilizer.”

Member of Provincial Parliament Liz Sandals also announced $500,000 in provincial funding for SOWC at the event on behalf of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science. The investment will allow SOWC to build on the University of Guelph’s research project and other innovative technologies developed by Ontario companies for capturing value from wastewater treatment.


SaskWater announced a two year rate adjustment for customers receiving potable and non-potable water. Rate adjustments vary by system and will take effect in May 2017 and May 2018. The adjustment was announced on January 18, 2017.

Approximately 77% of the 48,000 Saskatchewan residents affected by this adjustment are in the Saskatoon area. SaskWater buys potable water directly from the city of Saskatoon to serve these customers. Last month, the City approved a 9.5% increase for 2017 and a 9.25% increase for 2018. SaskWater customers around Saskatoon will receive the same increases.

SaskWater also buys potable water directly from the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant to supply customers in that area. The rate charged to SaskWater is increasing by 7% and SaskWater customers in the Buffalo Pound area will receive the same increase.

All other affected customers will see increases ranging from 2% to 4.5% in order to keep pace with rising operating costs and infrastructure management.

SaskWater supplies service to its municipal customers who then distribute the water to their residents. While individual communities will determine how they pass on the cost, SaskWater estimates the average impact to individual households receiving potable water will be an increase of $7.32 per month in 2017 and $7.53 per month in 2018.

SaskWater said written notification will be sent to each customer advising them of their specific adjustment. It provides water and wastewater services to more than 72,000 people in Saskatchewan across 63 communities, nine rural municipalities and 85 rural pipeline groups.

For more information, visit: www.saskwater.com

Canada's federal infrastructure plan presents an "unparalleled opportunity" to address urban water infrastructure and protect waterways, says a new report by FLOW. Photo credit: Adobe Stock, hstiver.

A new report released by the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) urges the federal government to make innovative and sustainable urban water infrastructure a top priority for its 10-year, $180 billion infrastructure plan.

“The CBC’s recent reporting on the over 200 billion of litres of untreated municipal wastewater that ended up in our rivers, lakes and oceans in 2016 is a stark reminder of the problematic state of much of Canada’s urban water infrastructure,” said Tony Maas, Project Director for FLOW in a press release.

“The federal government’s historic infrastructure plan presents an unparalleled opportunity to address these issues and to transform urban water management to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”

The report titled Smart, Strategic Investments for Urban Water Sustainability: Seizing Canada’s Infrastructure Moment” (PDF), cites findings of the 2016 Canadian Municipal Infrastructure Report Card, which found that 35% of Canada’s wastewater infrastructure and 29% of drinking water infrastructure is in ‘fair to very poor condition’.

These issues clearly matter to the public. RBC’s 2016 Water Attitudes (PDF) survey found that, after health care, Canadians believe water services should be the next top priority for government infrastructure funding.

FLOW’s report, which was released on January 19, 2017, urges the federal government to target investments in water infrastructure to solutions that promote environmental and economic sustainability, build resilience to climate change, and leverage new and innovative technologies. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Prioritizing climate readiness and solutions that get the most out of existing infrastructure. Project proposal should be screened to ensure that planned infrastructure can withstand extreme weather conditions such as the heavy rain events we are experiencing as a result of climate change, and to prioritize solutions that maximize the capacity of existing water and wastewater treatment facilities before investing in new, large-scale expansion;
  • Dedicating funding for sustainable solutions. Specific funding streams should be created to support sustainable solutions including water conservation and efficiency programs, optimization of wastewater facilities, living green infrastructure such as urban stream restoration and retention ponds, and technologies that generate energy and recover valuable resources such as nutrients from wastewater; and,
  • Updating regulations. Existing federal wastewater regulations should be updated to strengthen environmental performance, address new contaminants including pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics, and promote uptake of innovative Canadian technologies and practices.

To read the full report and a policy brief, or learn more about the Forum for Leadership on Water, visit: www.flowcanada.org.

municipal wastewater treatment sampling station
Under Canada's Chemical Management Plan, chemical substances are monitored and surveyed at municipal wastewater treatment plants.
By Shirley Anne Smyth

Municipal wastewater is recognized as an important pathway for harmful chemical substances to enter the environment. Therefore, in 2009, the Government of Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) was expanded to include monitoring and surveying chemical substances in municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Under the CMP, the wastewater monitoring program generates data on levels of chemical substances entering wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), the fate of these substances through the liquid and solids treatment processes of typical treatment systems used in Canada at warm and cold process temperatures, and levels of these substances being discharged in effluents and those that remain in solids residuals. Thanks to the voluntary participation of WWTPs across Canada, the wastewater monitoring program has generated datasets on many substances.

Sampling and analysis of municipal wastewater

sampling locations in a wastewater treatment plant
Sampling locations on a general schematic of a secondary activated sludge wastewater treatment plant with anaerobic digestion.

The sampling points for the wastewater monitoring program provide information on levels of substances in raw influent, primary effluent after physical settling of solids, and final effluent after biological treatment and any other treatments such as phosphorus removal, filtration, and disinfection. Sampling also includes primary sludge (PS), waste biological sludge (WBS), and treated biosolids, to determine which substances partition to solids and their fate during the solids treatment process.

Raw influent, primary effluent, and final effluent samples were collected as 24-hour composites from all mechanical WWTPs and lagoons where possible. Primary sludge, waste biological sludge, treated biosolids, and lagoon effluent samples were collected as grabs. Each WWTP was sampled for three consecutive days during warm and cold seasons.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have been a topic of great interest in environmental and wastewater treatment studies since the early 2000s. In collaboration with Health Canada, the CMP wastewater monitoring program has generated data on a wide range of PPCPs. The results include:

  • Limited removal capacity by primary treatment and trickling filter treatment, and moderate removals (mean 30%) from activated sludge, biological aerated filter (BAF), and biological nutrient removal (BNR) processes. Parent compounds were removed more effectively than metabolites, and a few compounds showed strong sorption to solids.
  • Mixed removal capacity by a membrane bioreactor plant. Final effluent contained some pharmaceuticals at concentrations >500 ng/L, while others accumulated in sludge. Some substances showed >90% removal from wastewater, while some were not removed at all.
  • Mixed removal capacity for 115 PPCPs in five wastewater treatment types. Some compounds were removed by biodegradation, some by sorption to solids, and some remained in effluents. Removals higher than 80% were observed at temperatures above 13°C, hydraulic retention time (HRT) longer than 15 hours, and solids retention time (SRT) longer than six days. Removals were correlated with COD removal and degree of nitrification.
Brominated flame retardants

Flame retardant (FR) residues have been measured in many organisms, human tissue, serum, and milk, and some FRs have been linked to toxic effects. The polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) family of FRs was heavily used in foams and household plastics; however, because of their persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic characteristics, their use was phased out from 2004 to 2013. PBDEs, along with four other brominated flame retardants (BFRs) that could become replacements in industry, were one of the first substance groups included in the wastewater monitoring program.

PBDEs and BFRs were detected in all samples at levels ranging up to 1000 ng/L in influent and 260 ng/L in effluent, and up to 6000 ng/g in treated biosolids. They were >90% removed in all wastewater treatment processes except chemically-assisted primary treatment where removal was 70%.

Removal from water occurred through partitioning to solids, not through biodegradation, and was not dependent on temperature. Optimal conditions for removal from water were >2000 mg/L mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS), >nine days SRT, and >10 hours HRT. Levels of BFRs in biosolids increased due to destruction of volatile solids during anaerobic digestion, but decreased due to dilution during alkaline treatment.

Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in polymer manufacture for protective coatings on electrical and electronics equipment, and as a liner and coating in food and beverage containers. BPA is a xenoestrogen that can disrupt the endocrine system and its use in polycarbonate baby bottles has been prohibited in Canada.

BPA was monitored in the same treatment systems as the PBDEs discussed above. It was always detected in influents, sludge and biosolids. It tended to be removed during biological treatment processes with BAF, membrane bioreactor, and BNR systems showing the best removal. Chemically-assisted primary treatment showed minimal removal.

Better removal was observed at higher temperatures in aerated lagoons, secondary treatment, and BNR treatment. Greater than 80% removal of BPA could be achieved with HRT 13 hours, SRT 7 days, and MLSS 1600 mg/L at warm temperatures, while HRT 13 hours, SRT 17 days, and MLSS 5300 mg/L would be needed to achieve the same removal at cold temperatures. BPA was always detected in all solids. Levels in anaerobically digested biosolids were higher than those in PS, WBS, alkaline treated biosolids, and aerobically digested biosolids. Partitioning of BPA from water to solids was minimal. Biodegradation under aerobic conditions was an important removal mechanism, while no biodegradation appeared to occur under anaerobic conditions.

Nonylphenol ethoxylates

Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants have been used extensively in cleaning products, degreasers, textile processing, protective coatings, and pulp and paper processing. In 2001, NPEs were added to the List of Toxic Substances under CEPA 1999 because of their potential for endocrine-disrupting effects. In response, Environment and Climate Change Canada required a 95% reduction of NPEs in soap and cleaning products and processing aids in the textile and pulp and paper industries by the end of 2010. These source reductions were intended to reduce levels of NPEs in wastewater effluents. Therefore, in order to evaluate whether these actions were having the intended effect, NPEs were monitored at participating WWTPs in 2010 and 2011.

NPEs were monitored in raw influent, final effluent, and treated biosolids at warm and cold temperatures. They were always detected in influents and frequently detected in effluents. Influent concentrations tended to be higher, and removal tended to be better, at warm temperatures. NPEs were removed effectively in all processes that included biological treatment (median 91%) compared to primary treatment only (median 54%).

Results showed a 98% reduction in effluent concentrations of nonylphenol from secondary wastewater treatment systems compared to previous data. NPEs were always detected in treated solids. Comparison with levels reported previously indicate that NPE levels in municipal wastewater solids have decreased by up to 93%.

Volatile methylsiloxanes

pouring wastewater sample
Collecting a biosolids sample as part of Canada’s Chemical Management Plan.

Volatile methylsiloxanes (VMS) are used in many consumer and industrial applications including medical devices, personal care products, defoamers, sealants, adhesives, and coatings. In 2008, Canada concluded that D4 VMS could be harmful to the environment and that wastewater effluents were an important entry pathway.

D4 and other VMS were measured in influents and effluents. All samples were collected using grab methods because the silicone pump tubing in the auto-samplers caused contamination of composite samples. VMS were detected in all influents but were below detection limits in many effluents. Removal of VMS from municipal wastewater was consistently >92% regardless of treatment type, and was higher at warm temperatures. Results confirmed that sorption to solids and volatilization in the aeration tank were the main removal pathways for VMS.

Perfluorinated compounds

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have very high chemical and thermal stability, as well as both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties. They are used in many applications including textile stain and soil repellents, grease-proof food-contact paper, coatings, surfactants, and aqueous film-forming foams for fire-fighting. Many PFCs have been detected in the environment, and the two most prevalent, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have had restrictions or prohibitions placed on their use under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Thirteen PFCs including PFOS and PFOA were monitored in the same treatment systems as PBDEs described above. PFOA was the predominant compound detected in effluents while PFOS was the predominant compound detected in solids. Contrary to most other substances, these PFCs were generated during the wastewater treatment process, i.e., effluent concentrations were consistently higher than influent concentrations. Higher effluent concentrations were associated with biological treatment, longer hydraulic retention times, and warmer process temperatures. This phenomenon of PFC formation is believed to be due to the breakdown of unmeasured longer-chain perfluorinated precursors.


Wastewater and solids treatment processes are not designed to remove chemical substances; however, results from the Chemical Management Plan have demonstrated that some substances are removed from wastewater by degradation or volatilization and some by partitioning to solids. Some remain in effluents.

Biological treatment processes tend to show better removals than physical-chemical processes, and longer retention times and higher temperatures are associated with better removals of some substances. In solids treatment, some substances accumulate during anaerobic digestion, some appear to be degraded during aerobic digestion, and the alkaline treatment process causes a dilution effect.

The results of this program are used to improve our understanding and prediction of the fate of chemical substances during wastewater and solids treatment, and to determine if control measures are needed to prevent these substances from entering the municipal wastewater system. The program will continue to include long-term periodic monitoring of high priority substances, and will also investigate a variety of additional substances as needed to inform decision-making.

Shirley Anne Smyth is with Environment and Climate Change Canada. For a list of references used in this article email .