CEC Secretariat terminates Iona Wastewater Treatment submission

Montreal, 11 December 2013—The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has terminated the process for the SEM-10-003 (Iona Wastewater Treatment) submission, which alleged a failure to effectively enforce subsection 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act, in respect of sewage discharges from the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in British Columbia.

Articles 14 and 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation(NAAEC) include procedures allowing private parties to make submissions to the CEC Secretariat asserting “that a Party [to the NAAEC] is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law.”

The Submitters, comprising several environmental nongovernmental organizations, asserted that on a daily basis “the Iona WWTP [Wastewater Treatment Plant] facility discharges over 30 tonnes of oxygen demanding substances into the Strait of Georgia.” The Submitters allege that such substances may be deleterious to fish and fish habitat, and that Iona WWTP discharges that are acutely toxic to fish violate section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act.The Submitters allege that despite the Canadian government’s knowledge that discharges from the Iona WWTP are regularly acutely toxic to fish in contravention of the Act, “The Canadian government has failed to prevent” or to enforce against such discharges.

Canada’s response to the submission places the Iona plant in the context of Environment Canada’s overall enforcement strategy, and in the context of new federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations that are now in force and that authorize deposits of deleterious substances from wastewater treatment plants, establishing monitoring, test method, record keeping, reporting and other requirements.

The Secretariat determined in light of the submission and response that no central open questions remain warranting the preparation of a factual record, and has thus terminated the submission, providing its reasons in accordance with Article 15(1). Further information can be found at the registry for submission SEM-10-003 (Iona Wastewater Treatment).