Answers to the most commonly asked questions about wastewater. If you have a question that is not addressed, please call 3-1-1.
Why is the storm drain in front of my home not draining faster when it rains?
Sometimes, it seems the catch basins are not handling enough water to drain the street properly. This can be caused by debris such as leaves or grass clippings obstructing the grate. Your help in keeping the grates free of debris is valued and appreciated.
If the catch basin grate is clear and clean but does not drain quickly enough during heavy rainstorms, it may not mean the storm system is not functioning. During heavy rainstorms, the short term storage of rainwater on the streets is one of the means to avoid overwhelming the storm water collection system and the means to avoid the possibility of flooding basements. It is much better to have water on the street for a short duration than to have sewer backups. To prevent sewer backups, the City has restricted the catch basin capacity to match the capacity of the pipes.
Where does rain water go?
The City of Ottawa has three types of sewers: sanitary, storm and combined.
Sanitary sewers collect wastewater from homes, businesses and industrial sites, and transport the waste water through a network of sewers, pumping stations and forcemains to trunk sewers which direct flow to the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre for treatment before being discharged to the Ottawa River.
Storm sewers carry rainfall and other surface water run-off directly to the nearest creek, stream or river, generally without treatment.
Combined sewers collect and transport a mixture of both sanitary and storm water in a single pipe. Combined sewers only exist in a very small area of the City. Geographically most of the City is serviced by separated sewers. Most of this flow is transported to treatment plants, but when the 2.4m diameter pipe collecting the combined sewage is flowing at full capacity, the excess overflows to the river to prevent sewer backups into basements. This legacy system was designed and built when 100% of the city sewage was flowing directly to the Ottawa River. Today, 99.7% of sewage is fully treated.
The frequency and duration of the overflows within a combined sewer system depends on the volume of precipitation in a particular area and the sewer characteristics of the area. Some combined sewers rarely overflow, while others overflow when it rains.
What is a combined sewer overflow?
Learn more about combined sewer overflows.
What is the City doing to reduce spills to the Ottawa River?
Learn what the City is doing to reduce spills to the Ottawa River.
How do I properly discharge my pool water?
Learn maintenance tips for swimming pools and hot tubs.
How do I dispose of RV waste?
The Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre (ROPEC) accepts waste from recreational vehicles (RV) such as trailers, camper vans, and motor homes. This service is free of charge. Please present yourself at the front gate:
800 Green Creek Drive, Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (closed on statutory holidays).
*** For the week of May 27 - May 31, 2019 ONLY - the Facility will instead accept waste from 3 pm - 8 pm as work is completed on-site during daytime hours. ***
You will be directed to wait in a designated area until City staff becomes available to escort you to the discharge location and assist you. Water for flushing your tank will not be provided on site. Closed toed shoes and work gloves are recommended while on-site. Please note, general information will be requested in order to complete a log sheet for tracking purposes.
Why shouldn't "flushable" wipes be flushed down the toilet?
While products may be advertised as "flushable," in reality items such as baby wipes, makeup remover cloths, and disinfectant wipes do not decompose in the sanitary sewer system. Flushing this material causes damage to the sewer system and may cause sewer backups in your home. Flushables should be disposed of in the garbage.
What is wastewater?
Wastewater is water that has been used and discharged by homes, businesses and industries. Domestic wastewater includes typical wastes from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. Wastewater is thoroughly treated at the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre to ensure it is safe for the public’s health and the environment.
How does the wastewater treatment plant work?
Find out how the City treats wastewater at the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre (ROPEC).
Sewer backups and flooding
What do I do if my basement floods due to a sewer backup?
Learn what to do if your basement floods due to a sewer backup.
How do I apply for the Residential Protective Plumbing Program?
The City offers assistance to eligible homeowners to cover the cost of installing protective plumbing devices. For more information, consult information on the Residential Protective Plumbing Program.
What is a blow-back and why do they happen?
Learn about blow-backs and why they happen.