Wastewater, also called sewage, is what goes down the drains at home, work and school. It travels through a large network of sewers and pumping systems to a number of Regional treatment plants where solids are separated from the liquid and treated separately. The treated effluent is discharged to our river systems. The remaining treated solids, known as biosolids, are normally applied to agricultural land as fertilizer.
It is important to keep water other than wastewater, such as rain water, basement sump pump discharges, or foundation drainage out of the sanitary sewers that flow to wastewater treatment plants wherever possible, to avoid increasing the cost of treatment. Learn how to do your part. Municipal By-Laws control what may be discharged to a municipal sewer. Personal care products, baby wipes, grease, automotive liquids, garbage, and other liquid wastes do not belong in our sewers, and can have serious negative effects on our treatment plants and sewers.
Not all residences and workplaces in the Region are connected to municipal sewer systems. Many rural communities and small settlement areas rely on privately-owned septic systems to treat and dispose of their wastewater.
The Region also accepts and treats privately-hauled wastewater from septic tanks, holding tanks, and portable toilets.
Region of Waterloo's Role in Wastewater Services
The Region of Waterloo owns 13 treatment plants and six pumping stations, serving communities in three cities and four townships. The Region of Waterloo's Water Services Division oversees the construction, operation and maintenance of these facilities.
Most of the sewer and pumping systems are owned and maintained by the local area Cities and Townships, rather than by the Region.
Each day, the Region's wastewater plants treat 182 million litres of wastewater - enough to fill about 70 Olympic-sized swimming pools-created by over 500,000 residents and the Region's industry, commercial developments, and our institutions. As the Region continues to grow, these quantities continue to increase, and the Region is constantly at work planning and constructing upgrades and expansions to our treatment infrastructure to meet that growing demand in ways that do not compromise the health of our rivers.
How Our Wastewater Treatment Plants Operate
The design and operation of all of our treatment plants is strictly regulated by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), and each Regional plant is required to meet environmental quality standards set by the MOE, at the point of discharge to our local streams and rivers. Treated discharge from all of our plants is routinely monitored to confirm that our facilities meet their regulated quality standards and are not impacting the natural environment.
The Region of Waterloo has contracted the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) to operate and maintain all of its wastewater facilities. The Region's Water Services Division oversees OCWA and monitors their performance. Well-trained and provincially certified OCWA staff ensure all our facilities comply with Ministry of the Environment requirements.
Typically, wastewater entering the plants takes about 24 hours to travel through a multi-stage process where the wastewater becomes progressively cleaner, including physical, chemical and biological treatment systems. Solid material suspended in the wastewater entering the plant as well as sludges that are generated as a byproduct of treatment are transferred to a separate treatment system (digesters) where the solids are further broken down biologically and potentially harmful microorganisms are killed over a period of weeks. At many of our plants this solids treatment produces a beneficial end product called biosolids.
Biosolids are Beneficial - Biosolids Management Master Plan
Biosolids, a nutrient-rich organic material, are a by-product of wastewater treatment. They can be used as fertilizers, bio-fuels and more.
The majority of the Region's biosolids are spread on agricultural land as a fertilizer. A portion that cannot be spread is disposed of in landfills. Considering growing Regional population and loss of available agricultural lands, our current management method is not sustainable indefinitely. The Region completed a Biosolids Master Plan (BMP) in 2011 to update our long term strategy for sustainable management.
In September 2013, Regional Council approved a recommendation to review the 2011 Biosolids Master Plan and evaluate potential synergies with the Solid Waste Master Plan (currently being updated) and the Ontario Energy Plan. The Biosolids Master Plan update is expected to be completed by 2016.
Click the following link to view the current BMP and related documents
Biosolids Master Plan (2011)
September 10, 2013 Council recommendation Report E-13-104.
Wastewater Treatment Master Plans
Wastewater treatment infrastructure capital programs are guided by several Master Plans, the main one being the region-wide Wastewater Treatment Master Plan (WWTMP). To view our master plans and details on projects underway, click on the following links. Short summaries of the plans and projects are also available.
Wastewater Treatment Master Plan (Region wide)
Baden and New Hamburg Water & Wastewater Master Plan
Public Information Centre Presentation 2010
Notice of Completion
Final Report 2011
Appendices for Final Report
St. Jacobs and Elmira Wastewater Treatment Master Plan
St. Jacobs and Elmira Wastewater Treatment Master Plan Notice of Study Commencement
St. Jacobs and Elmira Wastewater Treatment Master Plan Public Information Centre
St Jacobs and Elmira Wastewater Treatment Master Plan Final Report Feb28/13
St Jacobs - Elmira Wastewater Treatment Master Plan Notice of Completion
Ayr Wastewater Servicing Master Plan
Ayr Wastewater Servicing Master Plan Notice of Study Commencement
Ayr Wastewater Servicing Master PlanPublic Information Centre
Ayr Wastewater Servicing Master Plan Notice of Completion
Ayr Wastewater Servicing Master Plan Project File Report
Ayr Wastewater Servicing Master Plan Project File Report Appendices
Wastewater Projects in Progress
Kitchener Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades
Waterloo Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades
Class Environmental Assessment for the Expansion of the New Hamburg Wastewater Treatment Plant
Notice of Study Commencement for Class Environmental Assessment for the Expansion of the New Hamburg Wastewater Treatment Plant
New Hamburg Wastewater Treatment Plant Public Consultation Centre, Sept 2013
Class Environmental Assessment for the East Side Lands Sanitary Pumping Station & Forcemain
Notice of Study Commencement East Side Lands Sanitary Pumping Station & Forcemain Environmental Assessment
Wastewater Projects Completed
East Side Servicing Review
Biosolids Heat Drying Facility Class Environmental Assessment
Region of Waterloo Standards and Guidelines of Wastewater Projects
Region of Waterloo Standards and Guidelines for Wastewater Projects
For use by consultants and Region staff to access the latest Wastewater Standards and Guidelines during pre-design and design.