Nunavut Wastewater Treatment Program

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) developed the Municipal Wastewater Effluent Strategy in 2009.   The Strategy aims to provide a harmonized national framework for managing wastewater.  It was identified that the Far North, due to its extreme climatic conditions and remoteness, would require careful consideration in order to produce a viable means to improve human and environmental health protection. The North was therefore given a 5-year window to conduct research in order to develop feasible standards and an approach that will protect human and environmental health.  The Strategy is currently being formed into the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WSER)  by Environment Canada. 

In 2010, Dalhousie University entered into a 5 year contract with Community and Government Services in the Government of Nunavut to investigate wastewater treatment processes in Nunavut.  The objectives of the research are to:

  • Determine the performance of current wastewater systems
  • Determine and characterize the risk to the receiving environment and human health
  • Assess technological or management solutions to improve treatment
  • Develop and parameterize mathematical models to predict and assess treatment
  • Propose appropriate Northern Performance Standards for the WSER

In 2012, Rob Jamieson and partners were awarded a Canadian Water Network grant through the Municipal Water Consortium.  This grant is to further study the design and optimization of wastewater stabilization ponds for remove, northern communities.  This research focuses on understanding the microbiology of Northern systems.

The majority of communities in Nunavut use passive technologies to treat their wastewater.  In all but four communities, wastewater is trucked to wastewater stabilization ponds (WSP) and/or wetlands for treatment.  These can either be engineered or natural systems.  The research team has focused their work in four communities to date that represent a cross section of different treatment technologies and geographical distribution:
Grise Fiord is the furthest north community being studied.  It is a community of 140 people with an engineered wastewater stabilization pond with decants twice per year through a short natural wetland system. 

Pond Inlet is a community of 1300 people on Northern Baffin Island.  The community decants annually from a large lined engineered WSP over a very steep bank into the ocean.
Coral harbour is a community of 800 people.  They truck wastewater to a continuously exfiltrating WSP that discharges to a large natural wetland area.

Kugaaruk is a community of 700 people that trucks wastewater to an engineered WSP.  Effluent is discharged from the WSP into a decant cell once or twice per year.  Effluent from the decant cell overflows into a natural wetland system prior to discharge to the ocean.
CWRS has partnered with the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Research Institute to develop the Northern Water Quality Laboratory (Link here to the lab page for NWQL).  The NWQL has the capacity to analyze common water and wastewater including pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, BOD, TSS, Nutrients, E. coli and Total Coliforms.