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Ontario proposes streamlining permissions for stormwater management, water takings for construction

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*The following regulatory news article is intended to be an overview of the report, legislation or proposal, and not a replacement for the actual guidance from the government. For the comprehensive data and all relevant information, please visit the linked source material within the article.

Ontario is looking to further utilize its online self-registration framework to reduce project timelines around water takings for construction site dewatering activities, as well as some less complex stormwater management measures, by replacing the need for provincial approval with an inspection by a licensed engineering practitioner.

The consultation process through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for the proposed regulatory amendments to the Environmental Protection Act will be open on the Environmental Registry of Ontario until October 30. 

Moving certain works to the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR), as well as creating further exemptions under the existing framework, would continue to allow more activities to move to permit-by-rule throughout the province and reduce red tape and project timelines. If approved, more projects could start operating immediately without the need for a ministry review that could take up to a year.

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“The [licensed engineering practitioner] will prepare technical documents and reports (erosion, spills, maintenance, etc.) and ensure that the stormwater management works meet the technical requirements in the proposed regulation to ensure the environment will be protected,” states the registry proposal, adding that the ministry will audit and inspect stormwater management works registered on the EASR to measure and ensure compliance with the proposed regulation.     

While many stormwater works require an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA), the new registry proposal suggests building on Ontario Regulation 525/98 to create further exemptions from the ECA process for low-impact works. For instance, exemptions have previously been made for UV treatment to control zebra and quagga mussels in water pipes, or foundation drainage works. Further low-impact development exemptions could include stormwater management measures such as infiltration trenches, swales, permeable pavements, and rain gardens.

There is currently no EASR self-registration for stormwater management works. Any changes would only apply to the private sector and not municipal operations. 

“Under the proposed regulation, proponents would be required to identify whether the activity is a significant drinking water threat,” states the registry proposal. “If the activity is a significant drinking water threat, the [licensed engineering practitioner] would be required to consider additional design measures and may need to consider other requirements, such as a monitoring plan.”

A discussion paper on stormwater works published in August provides further details on the current proposals. 

A similar regulatory proposal is underway for water takings for construction site dewatering activities and foundation drains, which would eliminate the need to obtain a Permit to Take Water. Notably, there is a proposal to remove the current volumetric water taking limit of 400,000 litres of groundwater per day for dewatered work areas within a construction site. Instead, project officials could self-register on the EASR for the taking of any quantity of groundwater or stormwater. 

The existing exemption from a permission for water takings of 50,000 litres per day or less would remain in place, the ministry stated.

The new registry proposal would also remove the requirement to notify the local conservation authority of the water taking to align with changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.

Project officials would still need to record their water taking amounts, however, and the ministry would retain its ability to inspect water taking activities and ensure that they are complying with all necessary legal requirements. 

Additionally, project staff would need to prepare technical assessments, including a contingency plan that outlines measures to be implemented should there be any unacceptable impacts to the quality or quantity of water.

Proposed regulatory amendments to O. Reg. 387/04 under the Ontario Water Resources Act would also simplify permissions for residential foundation drainage, which keep buildings dry when their foundations are constructed below the water table. Under the proposal, project officials could take up to 379,000 litres of water per day from residential foundation drainage systems without a permit. A permit would still be required beyond that limit.

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