Sewer use regulations
The City’s Robert O. Pickard Environment Centre is designed to properly and effectively treat incoming sewage that falls within certain prescribed limits. To adhere to these limits and meet our regulated performance, all discharges must fall within the limits of Sewer Use By-law No. 2003 - 514.
The Sewer Use By-law applies equally to all discharges to the City’s wastewater collection system, be they from residential, business, or industrial discharges to the sewers. The focus of the Sewer Use Program is primarily on these discharges likely to be above sewer use limits, which are mostly industrial connections.
The Sewer Use Program is designed to help businesses understand their impact on the environment, their responsibilities and the resources available to help them comply with the Sewer Use By-law.
What is industrial waste?
- Waste produced by businesses, institutions and commercial or industrial facilities not generated from washroom or shower areas and is non-domestic in nature;
- Includes process waste, rinse water, wastewater from pre-treatment equipment, and boiler blowdown.
Household hazardous waste doesn’t belong in a sewer or storm drain.
For homeowners, anything that is corrosive, flammable or poisonous is hazardous waste. Municipal wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove such contaminants. These materials flow through the treatment plant directly into Ottawa's waterways. These substances should never be flushed down toilet, poured down the drain, or discharged into the sewer or storm drain. Dispose of these products safely at a household hazardous waste depot.
- City of Ottawa - Sewer Use Program
613-580-2424, ext. 23326
- Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
613-521-3450 or 1-800-565-4923
- Environmental Spill Reporting
Spills Action Centre
- Environment Canada
Consult your local yellow pages under Liquid Waste Removal for listings of industrial waste haulers. Listings of environmental engineers and consultants can be found under Environment Consultants and Services.
Sewer discharge limits and prohibited substances
Sanitary and combined sewers
Many substances cannot be put in the sewer system as they endanger workers, damage the sewer system, upset the treatment process and negatively affect the quality of our rivers.
You can review the discharge limits and prohibited substances for sanitary and combined sewers. For more information, please contact a representative of the Sewer Use Program at 613-580-2424 ext. 23326.
Storms sewers are designed to capture and carry surface run-off to the nearest creek, stream or river. Discharges into storm sewers can create environmental problems since the discharges go directly into waterways, generally without treatment.
You can review the discharge limits and prohibited substances for storm sewers. For more information, please contact a representative of the Sewer Use Program at 613-580-2424 ext. 23326.
Direct dischargers or 'point source' dischargers are from sources such as pipes and sewers. Industrial and commercial facilities may generate wastewater that can contain a variety of pollutants, metals, oil or grease.
Resources for direct dischargers:
Installing and maintaining a grease trap
The owner or operator of premises involved in commercial food preparation, vehicle maintenance or dentistry are required to install grease traps (also termed "interceptors") on all of their fixtures to prevent the release of grease, oil, sand and dental amalgam to the sewer. They are also required to keep them in continuously efficient operation and keep maintenance records. The installation and maintenance of a grease trap is regulated by Sewer Use By-law No. 2003 - 514.
A compliance officer has the right to enter the premises at any time to inspect the grease traps and their operation, and request copies of maintenance procedures and records.
Industries to which this provision applies, who are found to be operating without a grease trap, will be required to install one at their expense. Failure to properly maintain the grease trap or provide maintenance records will be considered a violation of the by-law.
For more information, please contact a representative of the Sewer Use Program at 613-580-2424 ext. 23326.
- Install and Maintain a Grease Trap (Rural)
- Install and Maintain a Grease Trap (Urban)
- Maintenance Log for Food Waste Interceptor
- Food Service Establishments - Best Management Practices
Hauled liquid waste
Industrial, institutional, and commercial facilities that discharge non-residential wastewater into septic or holding tanks, must submit a request to discharge and receive an approval letter for acceptable disposal at the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Center prior to contracting a hauling company. All waste haulers must possess a valid annual discharge permit from the City and abide by its terms and conditions.
New permit holder
Waste haulers wishing to dispose of any liquid material must obtain an annual permit from the City and abide by its terms and conditions. The permit specifies the types of waste that are acceptable for discharge and the times and location of the discharge. Haulers must provide a manifest for each load of waste they discharge, and must ensure that the liquid material meets the Sewer Use By-law requirements. Since access to the wastewater treatment plant is controlled electronically, haulers using the site must have their trucks equipped with an electronic access card.
To obtain an application form for an annual permit, please contact a representative of the Sewer Use Program at 613-580-2424, ext. 23326, or you can access an electronic version below. When you contact the City, please ensure that you have a copy of your up-to-date Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks approvals and permits on hand.
Resources for generators
Generators are from sources such as septic tanks and holding tanks. Industrial and commercial facilities may generate wastewater that can contain a variety of pollutants; metals, oil, and grease.
- Maintenance Log for a Food Waste Interceptor
- Permit Application
- Restricted Septage Approval Application
- Maintenance Log for Garages
Resources for haulers
Haulers transport the waste from a generator's site.
Fee structure (effective January 1, 2024)
Hauled Liquid Waste
|Annual Permit Fee
|$372 per year
|Annual Permit Revision Fee
|$150 per revision
|Hold Tank Strength Liquid Material
|$3.67 per cubic metre
|Septic Tank Strength Liquid Material
|$17.10 per cubic metre
|Liquid Material Generated Outside the City of Ottawa
|$29.81 per cubic metre
Discharge FeesFees for parameters in sewage listed below shall be based on the following: Parameters in Sewage
|Biochemical Oxygen Demand
|$1.66 per kg
|$0.88 per kg
|$6.60 per kg
|$2.66 per kg
|Water from a source other than the municipal distribution system Conveyance Fee Treatment Fee
|$1.79 per cubic metre $1.11 per cubic metre
|Special Discharge Agreement Fee
|Special Discharge Agreement Revision Fee
|$306 per revision
|Sanitary Sewer Agreement Fee
|Sanitary Sewer Agreement Revision Fee
|$384 per revision
|Compliance Program Fee
|Compliance Program Revision Fee
|$306 per revision
|Combined Agreement Fee
|Combined Agreement Revision Fee
|$306 per revision
Compliance and enforcement
When wastewater discharges exceed certain limits or contain prohibited substances, a facility may have the option of entering into an agreement with the City to bring their discharge into compliance with the By-law. The agreements outline the conditions that must be met and provide for the recovery of treatment costs. Four types of agreements may be available to dischargers in the City of Ottawa:
Special discharge agreements
Facilities wishing to discharge non-toxic waste that exceeds the discharge limits for substances that can be treated at the wastewater treatment plant can apply to the City for a Special Discharge Agreement. Treatable substances include suspended solids, biochemical oxygen demand, total phosphorus and total Kjeldahl nitrogen. These are the only parameters that can be exceeded under these types of agreements. The discharge must comply with all other By-law limits. The agreement outlines monitoring and reporting requirements and provides for the recovery of additional treatment costs.
Sanitary sewer agreements
Discharges of liquid material that comes from a source other than the municipal water system, such as remediated groundwater, will require a Sanitary Sewer Agreement. Under specific conditions, the agreement will allow the discharge of the wastewater to the sanitary or combined sewer system. The agreement outlines monitoring and reporting requirements and a fee is levied against the facility to cover the cost of conveying and treating the wastewater.
Anyone wishing to discharge this type of material to the sewage works must make their request in writing to Sewer Use Program staff and provide recent analytical results. The discharge must meet by-law limits and volume restrictions may be imposed on the discharge where warranted by conditions in the sewer.
The By-law generally prohibits the discharge of waste disposal site leachate to the sewage works. Under specific circumstances and conditions, leachate may be discharged to the sewer or hauled to the Robert O. Pickard Centre for treatment. Anyone wishing to discharge leachate to the sewage works must make their request in writing to Sewer Use Program staff and provide recent and historical analytical results of the leachate. If approved, the disposal of the leachate is subject to the terms and conditions of a discharge agreement. This includes payment of additional treatment costs and self-monitoring and reporting requirements.
Agreements contain special requirements beyond those outlined. For further details, or to initiate the approval process, contact a Sewer Use Program representative at 613-580-2424, ext. 23326.
Facilities discharging wastewater, that exceeds By-law limits, can request the implementation of a compliance program. The objective of the compliance program is to allow the site discharger time to bring the discharge within the requirements of the Sewer Use By-law while providing the facility with sufficient time to implement the required corrective action. The compliance program sets conditions and timeframes under which the facility may be allowed to discharge the waste to the sanitary or combined sewer.
The compliance program is in effect for a specified length of time. During this time, the facility plans, designs, constructs, installs or implements the required equipment and practices to bring their discharges into compliance.
Facilities will be required to assess the quality of their wastewater and provide a progress report for each of the compliance program activities they have undertaken. The program is in line with pollution prevention as it emphasizes source reduction and encourages facilities to implement waste reduction practices.
As part of a compliance program, facilities may bring their discharge into compliance by implementing one or more of the following activities:
- Change a process, method or technique to reduce, avoid or eliminate the generation of hazardous waste
- Install pre-treatment equipment to remove contaminants from wastewater before it is discharged into the sewer system
- Substitute materials and chemicals to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous materials
- Recycle waste materials or specific chemicals for reuse within the existing processes or operations. By recycling and utilizing waste materials, facilities can realize long-term economic and social benefits.
- Improve maintenance and operational procedures to avoid equipment breakdown that may result in contaminant discharges into drains and sewers
Self monitoring may help with early-identification of a spill or an unusual discharge and assist with timely correction. Dischargers may be required to sample their wastewater at a suitable location determined by the Compliance Officer and report the results to the Sewer Use Program on a regular basis.
Dischargers may be required to provide Compliance Officers with information regarding operation of their facility, including a description of process operations, names and quantities of materials stored on site, diagrams and maintenance records.
Best management practices plans
Best management practices (BMPs) outline operating standards for an industrial sector. They contain detailed requirements for special handling of waste, and minimum requirements for the installation of pre-treatment equipment, maintenance and record keeping. They may also include pollution prevention initiatives, good housekeeping practices, training requirements, fire safety measures and emergency response procedures. Under specific conditions, exemptions or variances may be provided for some by-law limits if the facility is operating in accordance with an approved BMP.
BMPs contain special requirements beyond those outlined in this publication. For further details, or to initiate the approval process, contact a Sewer Use Program representative at 613-580-2424, ext. 23326.
Every person or facility that accidentally discharges prohibited waste into the sewer system or discharges material which is not normally discharged regardless of the quantity, must notify a representative of the Sewer Use Program immediately at 613-580-2424 ext. 23326, during regular business hours. Call 3-1-1 outside of regular business hours. These reporting requirements are in addition to any other legal reporting requirements.
When reporting a spill or unusual discharge (termed 'event'), you are required to provide the following information:
- Location where the event occurred
- Names and phone number of the person who discharged or deposited the waste and the person who reported the event
- The date and time of the event
- Type and volume of material discharged or deposited, and any associated hazards
- Corrective actions being taken to control the discharge
The person must do everything reasonably possible to contain the event, minimize damages and clean up the event. The City is authorized to undertake the remediation and recover any associated costs from those responsible if this does not occur.
The person responsible for the discharge or deposit is also required to submit a written report to the Sewer Use Program within five days following the event.
In addition to the information outlined above, the report must describe:
- The material spilled
- The characteristics of the material
- The duration of the discharge
- The work completed or still in progress to mitigate the event
- The preventative measures to avoid recurrence of a similar event in the future
The favoured approach to dealing with violations of the Sewer Use By-law is to enlist cooperation and commitment from the discharger to address and correct non-compliance. Failure to resolve an issue within a reasonable time frame is met with escalated enforcement, including the issuance of a Notice of Violation, ticket, permit suspension or revocation, as well as prosecution. The Sewer Use By-law has provisions for fines in the event of conviction.
Sewer use fines
|First offence (maximum)
|Second offence (maximum)
If you have knowledge of a spill or unusual discharge to the sewer system, please call a representative of the Sewer Use Program at 613-580-2424 ext. 23326, or contact 3-1-1. Your identity will be kept confidential. Compliance officers will investigate and follow up to see that corrective actions are taken.