Proposed changes to environmental approvals for municipal sewage collection works

ERO number
019-1080
Notice type
Policy
Act
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
July 8, 2020 - September 6, 2020 (60 days) Closed
Last updated

There is no requirement to post this notice on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, but we wanted to hear your thoughts. Thank you for your feedback.

This consultation was open from:
July 8, 2020
to September 6, 2020

Decision summary

The ministry is moving forward in implementing the Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Permissions Approach to update the current sewage approvals framework, following consultation in summer 2020.

Decision details

Ontario is adopting a Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Permissions Approach (CLI) for low risk projects related to sewage collection and stormwater management, with a goal of getting important, low-risk public infrastructure projects built sooner by reducing the time it takes between when needs are identified and when citizens can actually benefit.

Under the proposed consolidated process, a municipality would no longer need to submit individual “pipe by pipe” applications for future alterations provided they are built in accordance with new design criteria and all other ministry approved conditions. These pre-authorizations will allow municipalities to proceed without first having to obtain an individual ministry permission. In certain circumstances, and with municipal approval, developers who are constructing infrastructure on behalf of municipalities can receive pre-authorization if work is being carried out in accordance with the requirements of the municipality’s consolidated linear infrastructure Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA), including meeting ministry design standards.

Consolidated Linear Infrastructure will:

  • create an efficient process for low-risk projects
  • provide clear, transparent and consistent requirements
  • improve environmental protection through updated and consolidated terms and conditions
  • establish a more comprehensive picture of sewage works across the province

The CLI Permissions Approach will replace the current approach for lower risk, routine sewage works and has been modelled after the current framework for municipal drinking water systems.

All existing and future approvals will be incorporated into two consolidated Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECAs):

  • one for municipal sanitary collection systems
  • one for stormwater management works

Consultations and next steps

We consulted and sought comments from stakeholders about the:

  • approach
  • ECA application process
  • ECA draft templates
  • proposed design criteria
  • amount of time and resources municipalities would need to transition to the new approach

Many of the comments we received were very technical and focused on the transition and implementation of the CLI approach. We appreciate the insight and input we have received through the webinars and Environmental Registry and are currently considering and incorporating these comments as we develop the transition plan and finalize the ECA templates and design criteria.

The first step in the transition will ask municipalities to apply for a CLI ECA. for which the application guide is attached. We plan to phase in municipalities according to a schedule, starting with municipalities with Transfer of Review agreements, then municipalities with combined sewer overflows, and finally based on population starting from larger to smaller.

We will be sending out more specific information directly to municipalities in the next few weeks, including detailed guidance that will include:

  • information on expectations
  • timelines
  • process

We anticipate receiving the first CLI ECA applications in September 2021, and aim to issue these first CLI ECA in December 2021. We will be engaging with municipalities in advance of application due dates through information sessions and one-on-one meetings. We are committed to working with municipalities to provide flexibility in application timelines and will phase in compliance conditions on a case by case basis.

We look forward to working with municipalities to ensure they are prepared and ready to transition to CLI.

Comments received

Through the registry

41

By email

45

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

Feedback summary

We considered all feedback received during the comment period for this posting, which included 80 comments from a wide range of interested parties, including:

  • members of the public
  • municipalities
  • non-governmental organizations
  • industry associations
  • conservation authorities

Most comments support the ministry’s ongoing work towards consolidated permissions. Stakeholders also expressed the need for clarity on the implementation of this approach at the municipal level.

During the proposal posting, the ministry received questions related to the following three themes:

  • potential increased environmental impact
  • the ministry’s role in the technical review of low-risk sewage works
  • the future of the transfer of review program

Potential increased environmental impact

Some comments expressed concern for potential increased environmental risk because of the streamlining of the approvals process, as under certain circumstances separate ECA applications for lower risk, routine sewage works would no longer be submitted to the ministry.

The ministry anticipates that through implementing the proposed approach, there will be increased environmental protection because approval requirements, many of which are out of date in approvals across the province, will be updated to current environmental standards.

The proposed approach is about eliminating duplicative environmental approval processes and will actually enhance environmental protection by ensuring sewage works across the province are operating with conditions that are consistent with current environmental standards.

The quality and consistency of new sewage works will be ensured by updating and consolidating ECA terms and conditions to current standards that will apply to each municipality’s sewage collection system.

Further, we will be able to establish an up to date picture of all sewage infrastructure across the province. This information could be used to inform and support effective environmental policy and planning decisions at both the municipal and provincial levels.

Ministry’s role in the technical review of these sewage works

We received comments that raised concerns with the ministry’s changing role, as municipalities, and prescribed persons, will no longer have to submit applications and obtain a specific approval for routine works that are included in the municipality’s ECA if specific requirements are met.

Currently, the ministry’s role in approving and reviewing these low-risk, routine sewage works is limited in many areas of the province. In many cases, if the municipality is in the Transfer of Review program, the municipality already oversees the technical review of these works, and not the ministry.

Under the Transfer of Review program, the ministry has agreements with several municipalities in place. Under these agreements, the municipality undertakes the technical review of sewage works that are listed and specified in these agreements. For these specific works, the ministry does an administrative check and issues an ECA, but the technical review is conducted or overseen by the municipality.

No changes to consultation requirements are being proposed through CLI. In many ways, CLI would be very similar to the Transfer of Review program. The municipality would oversee and ensure the technical review of the works specified in their CLI ECA is carried out in accordance with their ECA requirements; however, under CLI, no separate ECA from the ministry would be issued. Conservation Authorities would have a similar role to the one they have today.

The CLI approach will provide consistency in that the municipalities will oversee the process of reviewing the works to ensure they meet ECA requirements. The duplicative processes of having the municipality oversee the technical review and then submit applications to the ministry to confirm the same requirements have been met, will be eliminated and provide for a more efficient process.

Future of the Transfer of Review Program

With the implementation and transition to CLI across the province, the ministry anticipates the gradual wind down of the Transfer of Review program (ToR) as it will no longer be needed. We realize that there are issues that need to be addressed such as cases where CLI may not include works that are currently under a municipality’s ToR agreement, and the nature and length of agreements that are currently in place. As we plan the transition to CLI, we look forward to working with municipalities through their specific situations and concerns related to the move from ToR to CLI.

Details of the how the consolidated permissions approach for sewage works will be implemented will be addressed through:

  • ongoing consultation with existing technical working groups
  • association meetings
  • targeted outreach sessions

Supporting materials

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Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-1080
Notice type
Policy
Act
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

July 8, 2020 - September 6, 2020 (60 days)

Proposal details

Current requirements for sewage works in Ontario

In Ontario, Section 53 of the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) requires municipalities and developers to obtain an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) to establish, alter, extend or replace sewage works.

Currently we receive over 700 sewage applications each year from municipalities and developers. Many of these applications support new housing and commercial developments. Municipalities and developers spend significant time and money preparing and submitting individual ECAs for these non complex, routine alterations that make up a part of the municipality’s sanitary collection and stormwater works.

We have issued thousands of individual approvals to municipalities and developers for routine, low-risk municipal sanitary collection and stormwater works (e.g. sewers, forcemains) since the OWRA came into effect. Many of these approvals are now out of date, and this pipe-by-pipe, piecemeal approach does not allow for a holistic view of a municipality’s wastewater and stormwater systems.

Proposed Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Permissions Approach

We are proposing to implement a Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Permissions Approach that has been modeled after the existing permissions framework for municipal drinking water systems, which was established in 2009. The proposed approach uses a risk-based framework to improve:

  • service delivery
  • public transparency

It will enhance environmental protection by establishing a more holistic picture of where sewage works are located across the province which in turn will inform and support effective environmental policy and planning decisions.

ECA requirements will also be updated to current standards, which will provide clear and consistent expectations for municipalities and developers.

The purpose of Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Permissions Approach is to:

  • reduce regulatory burden for municipalities and developers by streamlining the approval process by replacing existing individual pipe by pipe ECAs with one multi-media ECA for a municipality’s wastewater sewage collection system and one multi-media ECA for a municipality’s stormwater collection, treatment and disposal system
  • provide clear, transparent and consistent requirements through the new design criteria and conditions in the new ECAs that municipalities and developers can follow for future sewage work
  • improve environmental protection and ensure quality and consistency of new sewage works through updating ECA terms and conditions to current standards
  • consolidate and update ECA terms and conditions that will apply to each municipality’s sewage collection system
  • consolidate the ECAs for existing linear infrastructure to establish a holistic picture of all routine works owned by a municipality

Core components of the proposed approach

Under the proposed approach we will incorporate all existing and future approvals into one new consolidated ECA for municipal sanitary collection systems and one new consolidated ECA for stormwater management works with pre-authorizations. The core components of the proposed approach are:

  1. Regulation 208/19 - Environmental Compliance Approval Regulation In Respect Of Sewage Works Regulation:

    This regulation came into force in July 2019. It enables developers to make alterations to a municipality’s sewage system without a separate approval, if specific conditions are met.

  2. New design criteria for linear infrastructure sanitary and some storm management collection systems:

    The design criteria incorporates the existing 2008 design guidelines for linear infrastructure for sanitary and some types of storm collection systems. It includes criteria around the diameter, material, cover of sewer pipes, flow rates and velocities, new monitoring and reporting requirements for combined sewer overflows and bypasses.

    The design criteria will be referred to in conditions of the future Consolidated Linear Infrastructure ECAs. Municipalities and developers will need to comply with the design criteria to meet the pre-authorization conditions of the Consolidated Linear Infrastructure ECAs.

  3. New Consolidated Linear Infrastructure ECA templates:

    These templates will provide clear and consistent design and operation requirements that every municipality and developer would need to meet. The templates will provide clear expectations for municipalities, developers and MECP compliance officers.

Under the proposed approach, municipalities would need to prepare and submit to the ministry applications for consolidated linear infrastructure ECAs that will include a description of all existing sanitary collection and stormwater works within their municipal boundaries that they own.

We anticipate that existing documentation can be used for the application but would like to hear feedback from municipalities as part of this consultation. We will work with municipalities so they can provide sufficient information, in situations where they do not have an inventory of existing works immediately available at the time of application, or that may require additional time to prepare the information.

Once issued, the consolidated linear infrastructure ECAs would effectively replace the numerous ECAs that had been previously issued to a municipality for its sanitary collection and stormwater works.

The new consolidated linear infrastructure ECAs will:

  • incorporate all the requirements for a municipality’s entire sanitary collection system and stormwater management works
  • include updated conditions that will pre-authorize municipalities and prescribed persons (e.g. developers) to make future specified alterations in accordance with the proposed new design criteria
  • include other updated conditions to improve environmental protection and ensure quality and consistency in new construction

Under the proposed approach, a municipality will no longer need to submit individual pipe by pipe ECAs for future alterations provided that the future alterations are built in accordance with new design criteria and all other ECA conditions. Also, under certain circumstances, and only with municipal approval, other persons such as developers may be able to construct works under the municipality’s consolidated linear infrastructure ECA. This will eliminate the need for developers to prepare and submit individual ECAs for sewage works that eventually will be owned by the municipality.

The proposed Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Permissions Approach will:

  • save municipalities and developers time and money
  • allow our ministry to focus our resources on activities which pose the greatest risk to human health and the environment.
  • enhance environmental protection by providing a greater understanding of where sewage works are located across the province which, in turn, will inform and support effective environmental policy and planning decisions at both the municipal and provincial level
  • also ensure consistency as the same permission process and design standards would apply to all municipalities in Ontario

Opportunities to provide input

We encourage interested parties to make comments on the proposal, including the attached documents which provide greater detail on the proposed approach:

  • question and answer document, with requests for stakeholder feedback on specific aspects of the approach
  • new Consolidated Linear Infrastructure ECA templates
  • new design criteria

The information we gather through this consultation process will inform any final decision making with respect to the proposal, including implementation timing.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from July 8, 2020
to September 6, 2020

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