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Sewer Use Bylaw

The City of Saskatoon Sewer Use Bylaw 5115 regulates the use of the public sewage works and provides for the levying and collection of a charge for the use of the public sewage works.

When this bylaw was created in 1971, Saskatoon had a population of 126,450. Today we are a city of 248,000 and growing rapidly. It is time to update the Bylaw to reflect this growth, as well as new economic and environmental demands. 

In 2011 City Council approved in principal an update to Sewer Use Bylaw (5115) that focuses on source control management to regulate discharges that present a risk to the City's sanitary sewer system such as organic materials, hydrocarbons, metals, grease, and grit.

The new Bylaw also supports the City's strategic goal of Environmental Leadership by improving the environmental quality of treated wastewater discharged into the South Saskatchewan River and biosolids that are spread on farmland. The goal of Asset and Financial Sustainability is supported by reducing the risk of damage to the sanitary sewer system.

The City's Vision

“Balance wastewater utility efficiency and effectiveness while maintaining an attractive economic environment for business in the City of Saskatoon, considering the community’s vision for environmental stewardship.”

Why is the City of Saskatoon Proposing a new Sewer Use Bylaw?

  • To address high levels of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), which is indirectly the measure of the amount of organics entering the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • To address maintenance and backup issues from excessive restaurant grease entering the wastewater system.
  • To address the potential for trucked liquid waste to bring wastewater loads that contain excessively high concentrations of inappropriate substances.
  • To address high wastewater strength that can result in corrosion of the wastewater collection system, lift station and treatment plant equipment.
  • To improve the environmental quality of the treated wastewater discharged into the South Saskatchewan River.

What are the changes in the new Sewer Use Bylaw?

The new bylaw is more specific about what substances can be discharged into the wastewater system and how wastewater system users have to manage their discharge.

What is source control management?

The City is using a “source control management" approach to establish a new regulatory framework for sanitary sewer use and operation.

Once a substance is in the sanitary sewer system, it can be very difficult to remove from the wastewater stream, therefore steps must be taken to address the discharge of substances at their source.

With source control management, substances are prevented from entering the sewer system, or the quantity of substance that enters the system is limited.

Saskatoon's sewer system users have been identified and grouped based on common types of waste (organics, chemicals, metals, oil and grease, etc.). Programs that will regulate both the type and amount of waste that can be discharged into the system are being developed.

Source Control Programs will reduce:

  • Damage to sanitary sewer system infrastructure, costly maintenance, and risk to public and private property from sewer backup;
  • Potential for City sanitary system workers to be exposed to harmful wastes;
  • Risk to the wastewater treatment process; and
  • Risk of inadvertently releasing environmentally harmful substances.

Who is affected by the new Bylaw?

While some discharges of interest come from residential waste, the majority are created by the industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sector or "businesses".

As the new Bylaw has the potential to affect many businesses, the Bylaw will take affect only after businesses have ample time to implement source control measures applicable to their business/discharge, if required.

On March 4, 2013 City Council approved a report to postpone the implementation of the new Bylaw to accommodate education programs with affected businesses.

City Council Agendas and Minutes - March 4, 2013

See page 9 of the minutes.

Next Steps

A series of Source Control Programs are currently being developed to provide information about what can be discharged into the wastewater system and how users of the sanitary sewer system are expected to manage their discharge.

The City has begun a review of businesses to determine their discharge risk level. Businesses whose risk is measurable will be required to participate in a specific Source Control Program and to develop a Discharge Management Plan. The City will provide as much support to businesses as possible as they develop their plans.

In fall 2014 information sessions for businesses were held to provide more details on the Source Control Programs.

A date for the new Bylaw to take effect has not yet been determined. Businesses will be provided with the effective date once it is known.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a new Sewer Use Bylaw needed?
Sewer Use Bylaw 5115 was created in 1971 and does not address current environmental standards. The new Bylaw will implement source control measures and allow the City to better regulate what businesses may discharge into the sanitary sewer system.

What are the benefits of the new bylaw?
The new bylaw will help protect sanitary sewer system infrastructure and public and private property from damage related to inappropriate discharges, protect City employees from exposure to harmful wastes, and reduce the risk of upsetting the waste treatment process and inadvertently releasing harmful substances into the environment within the final products of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Is the sanitary sewer system not built to withstand these contaminants?
The City protects and maintains water quality and public health by effectively treating typical wastewater collected from the City's sanitary sewer system. However, even the most advanced collection and treatment system cannot entirely deal with all types of inappropriate discharges, especially those that are toxic or corrosive.

Why are these discharges so harmful?
Some discharges could be flammable, corrosive, reactive, or highly toxic and could cause damage to pipes and pumps and upset wastewater treatment processes. Some discharges could even result in fires or explosions. Fat, oil, and grease discharges can build up in the sewer line and create blockages that lead to overflows into businesses and homes. Large amounts of grit and sand in the sanitary system can also cause damage to infrastructure.

Who is impacted by the new bylaw?
The majority of discharges that represent a risk to the City are created by the industrial, commercial, institutional (ICI) sector (i.e. businesses).

When was the new bylaw approved?
The new bylaw was approved in principle by City Council in 2011, however it has not yet taken effect as the City wanted to ensure businesses had time to learn more about the bylaw and make improvements to their discharge.

When will the new bylaw take effect? What if a business doesn't make improvements by the time the Bylaw takes effect?
A date has not yet been determined. Businesses not in compliance with the new Bylaw will be required to purchase a permit from the City, or pay additional fees, to use the City's sanitary sewer system.

How will the City ensure businesses know what to do?
A number of Source Control Programs are being developed to provide instruction on how businesses can improve the quality of their discharge. In March 2014, the City began a review of businesses to become more aware of their discharge quality and determine their risk level. Businesses whose risk is measurable will be required to participate in a specific Source Control Program and to develop a Discharge Management Plan. The City will provide as much support to businesses as possible as they develop their plans. In fall 2014, the City will also hold information sessions where businesses can learn more about the Source Control Program that will affect their business.

What types of discharges will be governed by the rules of the new bylaw?
The new bylaw will include a list of limits and prohibited substances that indicates what type of discharges will not be acceptable under the new bylaw. The Source Control Programs will target businesses that discharge these substances.

How will the permits work and how will the bylaw be enforced?
These details have not yet been determined however permits will be unique to the individual businesses depending on the Source Control Program and the level of risk their discharges pose to the City's sanitary sewer system. Enforcement will be staged starting with providing business owners with information about source control measures, and a request for the business to develop a Discharge Management Plan. Legal action could ultimately be taken if the business does not comply with the bylaw.

Are residents impacted by the new Sewer Use Bylaw?
Residential discharges typically consist of domestic waste and the sanitary sewer system is designed to handle these types of waste. All dischargers are expected to comply with the bylaw and the City does intend to create an education program for residents. Residents will not typically be subject to enforcement under the new bylaw.

What are the benefits of using Source Control Programs?
Having Source Control Programs in place will help eliminate discharges/contaminants from residential, institutional, industrial, and commercial businesses at the source before they enter the sanitary sewer system. The programs will outline procedures to manage discharges into the sanitary sewer system.

Additional Resources

Federation of Canadian Municipalities

National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment