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Inventory of treatment options will help remote and Indigenous communities improve effluent quality

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Membrane-Biofilm-Reactors
Membrane biofilm reactors for wastewater treatment are a popular option for remote communities.

By Klas Ohman

Many small, remote and Indigenous communities face challenges to meet established treated wastewater effluent quality standards. These communities require significant support to implement or upgrade their wastewater treatment systems to improve their wastewater effluent quality.

To support them, Environment and Climate Change Canada retained Associated Engineering (AE) to complete an inventory and assessment of existing, commercially-available wastewater treatment systems. These had to meet the needs of small Canadian municipalities and remote and Indigenous communities with a population of less than 5,000 people or collecting an average of less than 2,500 cubic metres of wastewater influent per day. There were three main objectives of the project.

The first was to better equip the federal government with reliable information on practical wastewater treatment options for small communities.

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The second was to provide information to support any potential future work in developing new wastewater effluent standards for these types of communities that are not currently subject to the Wastewater System Effluent Regulation, specifically north of the 60th and 54th parallels (Quebec) and in Newfoundland.

The third was to share the information internally with Indigenous Services Canada and Infrastructure Canada to support their decision making and funding programs for major infrastructure projects in Indigenous communities and municipalities. The government required an inventory list to help develop a future regulatory framework in northern Canadian communities and locations above the 54th parallel in Quebec and Newfoundland. Both of these areas are not currently subject to the Wastewater System Effluent Regulation.

Associated Engineering partnered with the University of Ottawa to develop an inventory of currently-implemented, commercially-available, municipal wastewater treatment technologies in Canada. It consists of conventional and emerging technologies and includes passive mechanical/passive stand-alone technologies, as well as potential upgrades and/or add-on technology options.

AE assessed opportunities for optimizing existing wastewater treatment processes or infrastructure instead of building it brand new. AE also considered challenges that small communities have in securing funding, understanding life cycle costs and financial planning, making informed decisions regarding the optimal technology, and training and retaining qualified operators.

The inventory is based on information provided by owners and operators of wastewater treatment systems through the Effluent Regulatory Reporting Information systems and on the Quebec performance evaluation of municipal water treatment facilities.

The project team reviewed the resiliency of each technology, its applicability to various climatic conditions, and potential technology combinations to meet the government’s standards. The project team also considered decentralised solutions for small residential subdivisions with flows of less than 100 m3 per day.

From the review, the AE team generated fact sheets for 20 technologies, including upgrade and add-on options suitable for small, remote and Indigenous communities, including those in harsh and very cold climatic conditions typical of northern Canada. As well, resource recovery and upgrade opportunities were included.

Benchmarking capital and operating costs were important as costs vary significantly across Canada. As much as possible, case studies and information from vendors was included.

This project supports efforts throughout Canada to manage water quality, improve environmental conditions, and safeguard public health through improved wastewater treatment and water resource recovery systems.

Klas Ohman is with Associated Engineering.

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