Communal water and wastewater service provision in Ontario

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Kissner, Benjamin
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University of Guelph

The Province of Ontario is promoting the infilling and increasing of populations through the use of various policy documents. The primary guiding document being the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement or PPS for short, which is used to inform the policy direction that planning decisions will take. In this document are a number of key points that influence the drinking and waste water servicing of an area. The PPS directly establishes a hierarchy of servicing for the province of Ontario to follow. It is prescribed that municipal servicing is the most preferred option, followed by communal servicing, and finally the last servicing method is privately owned and operated systems. This hierarchy is somewhat counter intuitive, due to the amount of regulation that is faced when a proponent suggests using a communal system to supply their development with drinking water and treat the wastewater. These regulations have come into power since the events that made up the Walkerton Tragedy in 2000. They have been created to protect drinking water sources, which will in turn prevent more unfortunate events form happening. These pieces of legislation are primarily focused on protecting the drinking water, whether it is at its source, or through the treatment process however there is lacking attention paid to another potential issue for drinking water security. Wastewater treatment receives little legislative attention, regulated only under sections of the Ontario Water Resources Act, Environmental Protection and the Ontario Building Code this facet of development receives only a portion of the attention paid to drinking water, but may have serious effects if neglected. This paper has been written from a rural context, where communal systems may be required or preferred instead of private systems and publicly operated treatment is not an option. With this in mind, septic systems are described as being a very affordable treatment option, as well as scalable for use at a variety sizes. The simplicity of the system makes it one of the cheaper options, thus it is the primary focus of the wastewater discussion that will ensue. This paper offers discussion of wastewater treatment and concerns surrounding communal systems from a variety of angles. To begin, an overview of the policies that will be used to determine the efficacy of the development proposed to use a communal system will be described. Construction and concerns that needs to be accounted for when considering septic system design will be discussed following the policy outline. Economic concerns will be mentioned in moderate detail, but management options and environmental issues are discussed at length. The research has not been conducted solely using literature, which is to say that primary research using key informant interviews has been carried out. With the nature of wastewater come concerns over the impacts that may be noticed in the surrounding environment. These concerns need to be taken into consideration, and a framework for doing so will be suggested. A discussion of the methodology used to select key informants is provided as well as the development of the interview frameworks that were employed to gather the information. The results of these interviews are presented and analyzed, with complete transcripts of the interview as well as the interview frameworks which are provided in the Appendices to this document.

septic system design, communal servicing, policy, wastewater treatment