Wastewater Treatment

    What is liquid waste?

    Liquid waste is also referred to as wastewater and sewage. These are terms for “used” water and the wastes that it carries. This water usually comes from being flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain. Liquid waste management is the management of used water in the region. It is managed by the Regional District of Nanaimo through Wastewater Services.

    What are some common ways to measure the quality of wastewater?

    The RDN routinely monitors a long list of parameters. However, total suspended solids (TSS) and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (cBOD5) are two common measures of water quality.

    • TSS are solid pollutants that can be captured on a fine filter paper. They are visible in water and decrease water clarity. Lower TSS is ideal for aquatic life.
    • cBOD5 is a measure of the quantity of oxygen consumed by microorganisms to break down organic matter in water. Lower cBOD5 is ideal for aquatic life.

    What are primary and secondary treatment and what kind of water quality do they achieve?

    Provincial regulations define primary treatment as any form of treatment, other than dilution, that produces a municipal effluent quality with carbonaceous 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (cBOD5) and total suspended solids (TSS) not more than 130 mg/L each. In practice, primary treatment is the physical treatment of wastewater. It uses gravity and time in settling tanks to remove about half of the solid organic matter.

    Provincial regulations define secondary treatment as means any form of treatment, other than dilution, that produces a municipal effluent quality with cBOD5 and TSS being not more than 45 mg/L each (except for lagoon systems which have different limits). In practice, secondary treatment is the biological treatment of wastewater. It uses beneficial micro-organisms to consume solid organic matter left after primary treatment. Together, primary and secondary treatment remove more than 90% of solid organic matter from the wastewater.

    What levels of treatment do the RDN wastewater treatment facilities provide?

    Treatment levels are:

    • Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre: secondary treatment
    • Duke Point Pollution Control Centre: secondary treatment with ultraviolet disinfection
    • French Creek Pollution Control Centre: secondary treatment
    • Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre: enhanced* primary treatment.

    Typically, primary treatment must produce effluent quality with carbonaceous 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (cBOD5) and total suspended solids (TSS) not more than 130 mg/L each (see FAQ above on water quality). Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre uses a flocculent to enhance primary treatment and produce an effluent with a cBOD5 and TSS not more than 100 mg/L.

    Are municipal wastewater treatment plants required to provide secondary treatment?

    Federal and provincial regulations require that municipal wastewater treatment plants provide be built with secondary treatment or be upgraded, over time, to provide secondary treatment.

    Federal regulations rank Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre as a low-risk wastewater treatment facility that must provide secondary treatment by 2040.

    Provincial regulations allow communities to determine the timeline to upgrade treatment plants to provide secondary treatment through a Liquid Waste Management Plan. Through this Liquid Waste Management Plan amendment, the RDN proposes to complete the Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre secondary treatment upgrade project by 2040.

    Are municipal wastewater treatment plants required to disinfect treated wastewater?

    The regulatory requirements for disinfection are mentioned in Section 52(1) of the BC Municipal Wastewater Regulation. Section 52(1) states that: A discharger must disinfect municipal effluent, if necessary, to ensure that receiving water or groundwater used for domestic or agricultural water extraction, recreational uses or aquatic food production meets water quality guidelines.

    The necessity of disinfection can be modelled as part of an Environmental Impact Study and confirmed through monitoring of the receiving environment. An Environmental Impact Study considers many things including currents, design flows and level of treatment, the conditions of the receiving environment, and the presence of receptors like shellfish harvesting areas or recreational areas. 

    What can be done to reduce the amount of waste discharged to the ocean?

    Homeowners can do a lot to reduce the amount of waste and contaminants discharged to the ocean. Below are some of the things that can help.

Liquid Waste Management Plan (General)

    Why do we need a Liquid Waste Management Plan?

    The RDN is required by the Province to have a Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP). A LWMP demonstrates that the RDN has a strategy to manage wastewater in the region. It also identifies regional goals, current and planned wastewater projects and upgrades, and environmental values and stewardship strategies. An LWMP approved by the Province also authorizes the RDN to borrow funds according to the plan.

    Why is the Liquid Waste Management Plan being amended?

    The Province recommends that local governments update their Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP) every five to ten years. The RDN plan was last updated in 2014 and is due for review. An amendment to the plan will better reflect regional services, goals, values, and ongoing projects and provide an opportunity for the public to give their feedback on the plan.

    What are the ten programs of the current Liquid Waste Management Plan?

    The plan is made up of ten programs that coordinate the RDN’s wastewater service efforts. The programs include:

    1. Public Wastewater Systems
    2. Private Onsite Systems
    3. Source Control
    4. Odour Control
    5. Rainwater Management - Drinking Water and Watershed Protection
    6. Volume Reduction
    7. Inflow and Infiltration
    8. Pollution Control Centres
    9. Integrate Resource Recovery
    10. Biosolids

    What are some changes proposed for the LWMP Amendment?

    Some updates to the plan will be:

    • An updated timeline for the project Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre Secondary Treatment Upgrade.
    • Updates to capture significant progress made towards the LWMP goals.
    • Updates to action items in the LWMP.
    • Updates to the list of capital projects and cost estimates in the region.
    • Reorganize the ten programs into six Focus Areas:
      • Wastewater Infrastructure
      • Biosolids Management
      • Water Protection
      • Education and Outreach
      • Administrative Tasks
      • Financial Planning.

    Does the LWMP Amendment include plans to expand sewer into areas that currently use septic systems?

    The Liquid Waste Management Plan Amendment does not propose creating new sewer service areas or expanding the boundaries of existing sewer service areas in the RDN. However, there is potential to expand service areas according to the RDN Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw No. 1615 and Official Community Plans, which dictate where sewer is envisioned for the future.

    To contain urban sprawl, the Regional Growth Strategy and Official Community Plans limit community sewer to designated Growth Containment Boundaries or Village Centres. Specifically, the Regional Growth Strategy does not support the provision of new sewer services to land designated as Rural Residential or Resource Lands and Open Space. Exceptions can be made where there is a threat to public health or the environment (i.e., where there is a failing septic system) if the full cost to provide the service is paid by property owners; and the works are consistent with RDN bylaws and policies.

    Factsheet 6 stated that there may be an expansion of the Duke Point Pollution Control Centre, based on demand. This project was listed in error and, to date, the RDN has not received a request for the expansion. If developers or new users in the community request an expansion of the service area, a plant expansion may be required, and one would be contemplated at that time. The Duke Point Pollution Control Centre Phase 1 Expansion mentioned in Factsheet 6 will be removed from the final LWMP Amendment.

    Which residents are responsible for funding the upgrades?

    The Local Government Act dictates that regional districts like the RDN collect funds for services based on the user-pay principle. That means that only those receiving the service are required to pay for it. Tax revenue from one service area must stay in that service area. Funds cannot be transferred to pay for services in other areas of the region like they can in a city or municipality. Grants from the provincial or federal levels of government can reduce the financial burden of upgrades on RDN taxpayers.

    Does the RDN apply for provincial and federal grants to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers?

    Yes. The RDN regularly applies for grant funding. The LWMP also makes a commitment to continue seeking grant funding to lower the financial burden of capital projects on RDN communities. 

    Cost estimates shown in the LWMP Amendment assume projects do not receive additional grant funding.

    How could the RDN pay for emergency works in service areas with insufficient funds?

    Rare events like storms and other unforeseeable events can cause significant damage to wastewater infrastructure. Sometimes emergency repairs are also necessary in small service areas with insufficient reserves and borrowing is required. We will obtain Board approval and notify the affected residents before borrowing for necessary capital projects that are not listed in the LWMP.

LWMP for the Nanoose Bay Service Area

    I live in an area of Nanoose Bay that is serviced by septic systems. What does the LWMP Amendment mean for me?

    The LWMP Amendment does not propose a significant change to services in areas of Nanoose Bay that have septic systems. The proposed changes are most relevant to the Fairwinds community with sewer services.

    What is the federal regulatory requirement for the RDN to provide secondary treatment at NPBCC?

    The federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations ranks NBPCC as a low-risk wastewater treatment facility that must provide secondary treatment by 2040.

    Why is the timeline for the secondary treatment upgrade moving to 2040?

    This new timeline will provide time to complete the critical repairs to the sewer and pump stations. It will also maximize the time the project is eligible for grant funding. 

    How can the Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre secondary treatment timeline be upgraded sooner to mitigate environmental impacts?

    The project timeline may be advanced if it receives significant grant funding from federal and provincial levels of government.

    What is the existing capacity of the Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre?

    The Nanoose Bay Pollution Control Centre has the capacity to provide Chemically Enhanced Primary Treatment to a population of approximately 3,000 people with the addition of sludge pumping capacity. The forecasted service population in 2045 is approximately 2,000 people.

    Is the condition of the NBPCC facility good enough to last until we upgrade the plant in 2040 as part of the Secondary Treatment Upgrade Project?

    The RDN will maintain the facility to ensure operational reliability. We do not foresee the need for major replacements or upgrades before the Secondary Upgrade Project. This is one of the aspects that we monitor which influences the timing of a facility expansion or upgrade.

    If the NBPCC sewer interceptor and pump stations were originally installed with poor quality, how can we be confident the same problem won’t happen again when they are repaired?

    The RDN was not involved with the original construction of the sewer interceptor, pump stations, or wastewater treatment plant. Instead, the original developer designed and installed the infrastructure and transferred its ownership to the RDN. Unfortunately, the developer constructed the infrastructure, particularly the interceptor, with poor techniques and materials. Today’s projects are owned and lead by the RDN. They prioritize long term value to the community. This includes selecting qualified design engineers and contractors who must follow robust quality requirements.

LWMP for the French Creek Pollution Control Centre Service Area

    What has impacted the timeline of the French Creek Pollution Control Centre (FCPCC) Expansion and Odour Control Upgrade project?

    Projects like the FCPCC Expansion and Odour Control Upgrade follow a detailed planning process. As the FCPCC upgrade moved through the planning stages, the cost of materials and physical construction increased significantly across the Canadian construction industry. In response, additional studies were performed to improve the project design and provide maximum value to the community. The cost increase and the resulting studies influenced the project timeline. More information on the project, including the updated timeline, is shared on the project website and Discussion Paper 2.

LWMP for the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre Service Area

    Factsheet 1 mentions a Receiving Environment Monitoring program for Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre. How will the Final LWMP Amendment address this topic?

    The Receiving Environment Monitoring Program for the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre is under review and refinement. The program will be finalized outside of the LWMP.