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.

The Nunavut Wastewater Treatment Program studied the different aspects of municipal wastewater treatment in Nunavut. The 6-year long study was funded by the Community and Government Services division of the Government of Nunavut. The objective was to assess the treatment performance of existing wastewater treatment systems in Nunavut.

Potential impacts to environmental and human health were also studied. Design guidelines for wastewater stabilization ponds and tundra wetland treatment areas were developed, founded on the scientific findings from the studies.


Published Articles:

Bridson-Pateman, E., Jamieson, R., & Lake, C. (2016). Geotextile biofiltration of     primary treated municipal wastewater under simulated arctic summer conditions. Geotextiles and Geomembranes44(6), 824-831.

Daley, K., Castleden, H., Jamieson, R., Furgal, C., & Ell, L. (2015). Water systems, sanitation, and public health risks in remote communities: Inuit resident perspectives from the Canadian Arctic. Social Science & Medicine135, 124-132.

Daley, K., Jamieson, R., Rainham, D., & Hansen, L. T. (2017). Wastewater treatment and public health in Nunavut: a microbial risk assessment framework for the Canadian Arctic. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 1-13.

Daley, K., Castleden, H., Jamieson, R., Furgal, C., & Ell, L. (2014). Municipal water quantities and health in Nunavut households: an exploratory case study in Coral Harbour, Nunavut, Canada. International journal of circumpolar health73(1), 23843.

Hayward, J., & Jamieson, R. (2015). Derivation of treatment rate constants for an arctic tundra wetland receiving primary treated municipal wastewater. Ecological Engineering. 82:165-174.

Hayward, J., Jamieson, R., Boutilier, L., Goulden, T., & Lam, B. (2014). Treatment performance assessment and hydrological characterization of an arctic tundra wetland receiving primary treated municipal wastewater.Ecological Engineering. 73: 786-797.

Hayward, J. L., Jackson, A. J., Yost, C. K., Hansen, L. T., & Jamieson, R. C. (2018). Fate of antibiotic resistance genes in two Arctic tundra wetlands impacted by municipal wastewater. Science of the Total Environment642, 1415-1428.

Huang, Y., Hansen, L. T., Ragush, C. M., & Jamieson, R. C. (2017). Disinfection and removal of human pathogenic bacteria in arctic waste stabilization ponds. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 1-13.

Krumhansl, K., Krkosek, W., & Jamieson, R. (2015).  Using species traits to assess human impacts on near shore benthic ecosystems in the Canadian Arctic. Ecological Indicators. 60:295-502. 

Krumhansl, K., Krkosek, W., Greenwood, M., Ragush, C., Schmidt, J., Grant, J., Barrell, J., Lu, L., Lam, B., Gagnon, G., & Jamieson, R. (2015). Assessment of arctic community wastewater impacts on marine benthic invertebrates. Environmental Science and Technology. 49:760-766.

Neudorf, K. D., Huang, Y. N., Ragush, C. M., Yost, C. K., Jamieson, R. C., & Hansen, L. T. (2017). Antibiotic resistance genes in municipal wastewater treatment systems and receiving waters in Arctic Canada. Science of The Total Environment598, 1085-1094.

Ragush, C. M., Poltarowicz, J. M., Lywood, J., Gagnon, G. A., Hansen, L. T., & Jamieson, R. C. (2017). Environmental and operational factors affecting carbon removal in model arctic waste stabilization ponds. Ecological Engineering98, 91-97.

Ragush, C., Schmidt, J., Krkosek, W., Truelstrup-Hansen, L., Gagnon, G., & Jamieson, R. (2015). Performance of municipal waste stabilization ponds in the Canadian Arctic. Ecological Engineering. 83: 413-421. 

Schmidt, J. J., Gagnon, G. A., & Jamieson, R. C. (2016). Microalgae growth and phosphorus uptake in wastewater under simulated cold region conditions. Ecological Engineering95, 588-593.

Schmidt, J., Ragush, C., Krkosek, W., Gagnon, G., & Jamieson, R. (2016). Characterizing phosphorus removal in passive waste stabilization ponds in Arctic communities. Arctic Science. 2(1):1-14.



Colin Ragush, PhD/Research Associate, sampling in a wastewater stabilization pond in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.