Environmental Monitoring

Sewer Use

Many substances cannot be put in the sewer system as they may endanger workers, damage the existing municipal sewer systems, disrupt the City of Ottawa treatment process and negatively affect the quality of our rivers. The University is therefore required to comply with the City of Ottawa Sewer Use By-Law (No. 2003-514) which includes over 87 parameters. When a chemical is not included in this by-law (example: acetone) this means the substance is prohibited, in any concentration, to be put down the drain.

How do we know if the University is complying with the By-Law?

The University of Ottawa works closely with the City of Ottawa to ensure that discharges from our community are complying with the City requirements. This is performed via sampling at random intervals at various locations on our Main Campus and our Health Science & Medicine Campus.

What do we do when there is an exceedance?

When an exceedance occurs the Office of Risk Management conducts Investigations with the appropriate Faculties and Services to help determine where the exceedance is coming from and assist the responsible parties in the development of mitigation strategies. Our focus is on collaborating with Faculties and Services to implement feasible, long-term solutions to maintain sewer discharge compliance.

Parameters of Concern at the University of Ottawa

There are certain recurring exceedances identified by ORM and the City of Ottawa in our sewer discharge. These recurring exceedances become parameters of concern that we monitor closely. Some examples are: Acetone, Dichloromethane, Total Suspended Solids, Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Total Phosphorous, Total Kjedahl Nitrogen and a few more. Examples of recent equipment/activities that were sampled on campus: cell culture broths, water aspirators, rotovaps, extractions, glassware washing, etc.

What am I allowed to put down the sink?

Only water and phosphate free hand soap unless your waste has been categorized and has been approved for sewer disposal. Every other substance, including non hazardous substances (i.e. sample cuttings, food products, soil/dirt, etc.) is also prohibited. You may request a review of your hazardous waste stream via the process validation service to determine if it is authorized for sewer discharge.  Refer to the Sewer Use Guideline  for a list of prohibited substances and for additional information.

Contaminated Sites Monitoring

Brownfields are abandoned, idle or underutilized properties where past actions have caused environmental contamination, but which still have potential for redevelopment or other economic opportunities.  The Office of Risk Management is responsible for monitoring the contamination levels of certain contaminated sites. This monitoring is designed to track the contamination of the specific site and determine if the contamination is spreading, increasing, decreasing or remaining consistent.

The monitoring can be performed for due diligence or to monitor a property that may undergo future construction projects. Contamination at the sites may be present in groundwater and/or soil and may need to be remediated in the future pending the future planned activities. The Officer of Risk Management therefore performs and/or coordinates services for:

groundwater monitoring well

Groundwater monitoring well

  • Groundwater sampling

The purpose of groundwater sampling is to collect samples representative for the aquifer at the well location. You may notice wells on campus, these are set-up to allow for easy access to the aquifer where a technician can pump up water and collect it in sample bottles for laboratory analysis. A variety of different parameters can be sampled including: general chemistry (example, pH), Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) , Nutrients, etc.  The results of the groundwater samples must comply with Ontario Reg. 153/04 (Amended April 15, 2011) for Table 3 (sites over 30m away from a body of water) and Table 9 (sites within 30 m from a body of water).

The purpose of sampling soil is to collect samples at a variety of different locations and depth to represent the extent and type of contamination of a site. In order to take samples at different depths (generally in response to a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment) test pitting may be required. Test pitting is a minimally invasive excavation to examine the subsurface conditions on a potential site by excavating multiple locations, generally 1m x 1m in size.

Test pit

Example of test pit used for the evaluation of contamination



Stormwater Management
University building identifying underground plumbing systems

Storm drains and Sewer pipelines. The Sewer Pipe is directed to the City Treatment Plant and the Storm Pipe is directed into the Rideau River.

Storm Sewers are designed to carry rainfall runoff and other drainage from a site directly into local streams, rivers and other bodies of water, without treatment. It is therefore not designed to carry sewage or accept hazardous wastes. The runoff is carried in underground pipes or open ditches and discharged, untreated, into local streams, rivers and other surface water bodies. Seeing as the water in the storm sewers are not treated the regulations for storm sewers are stringent in order to protect the body of water at the other end of the pipe as well as the health impact of untreated sewage to the population.

Similar to combined / sanitary sewers the  University is required to comply with the City of Ottawa Sewer Use By-Law (No. 2003-514) which includes  over 87 parameters for the quality of wastewater being discharged into storm sewers. Additionally, every stormwater system at the University requires a certificate of authorisation which is issued by the Provincial Government. (Section 53 of the Ontario Water Resources Act).

As per the Environmental Compliance Authorisation (ECA) for the University Storm Sewers, the systems are inspected and maintained yearly. 

It is also important to ensure that storm sewers are protected in the event of construction activities to mitigate the possibility of contamination or exceedances to the City By-Law.

REMEMBER: whatever goes in our storm sewers can go directly into the Rideau River.

Section 53 of the Ontario Water Resources Act requires the establishment of ECAs and a decision-making center for stormwater management.


Regulatory Reporting

Regulatory reporting is the submission of raw or formatted data as required by regulators to evaluate and track the operational status of institutions and their compliance with applicable regulatory provisions. Therefore, regulatory reporting is a critical activity for the University of Ottawa and requires a concerted effort from the Office of Risk Management and Faculties or Services. Some examples of regulatory reporting at the University of Ottawa are:

Spill Reporting

Reporting a spill to a supervisor or protection services must be performed as soon as possible following the spill. All spills which have entered the environment will be reported to the applicable authorities by the Office of Risk Management (Environmental Department). The responsible party for the spill is required to complete an incident report form to report and describe the spill that occurred within 24 hours of the incident occurring.

Self-Monitoring Sewer Use Reporting

There are certain recurring exceedances identified by ORM and the City of Ottawa in our sewer discharge. These recurring exceedances become parameters of concern that we monitor closely. The University is also required by the City of Ottawa to take samples both randomly and also at set intervals to ensure uOttawa is conforming to the Regulation. These results along with other reporting requirements are communicated to the City of Ottawa by the Office of Risk Management.

Air Emissions Reporting

The University has a responsibility to monitor certain air emissions and, if applicable, report to provincial and federal regulators. Reporting to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) for air emissions is mandatory for all universities since 2002.  This reporting is completed by the Office of Sustainability.

Above Ground / Under Ground Storage Tanks

Hazardous material storage tanks are used at various locations throughout the campus to store fuel for emergency generators and heating equipment.

The storage of liquid fuels is subject to various regulations, including the Technical Standards and Safety Act (2000) and the Fuel Oil Regulation (O. Reg. 213/01). These regulations include technical requirements for fuel storage tanks and training requirements for those that install and maintain them. All fuel storage tanks at uOttawa are installed in accordance with the Ontario installation code for oil-burning equipment. Tanks at the University are double-walled and include safety equipment including fill sensors and containment berms.

The environmental team maintains a storage tank management plan that includes a comprehensive inventory of tank locations and construction details, and sets out the procedures used to foresee any potential problems and to ensure that these systems are maintained in good working order.

Emergency Diesel Tanks

Emergency diesel tanks that supply the D’Iorio and Gendron emergency generator systems


Emergency generator outside of Marion

Emergency generator outside of Marion


Inspections & Audits
Two people setting up a silt fence

Contractors setting up a silt fence to ensure sediment control at a worksite.

The term audit and inspection are often used interchangeably, however, they differ in nature. When thinking of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle to differentiate between audits and inspections, inspections are a “do” and audits are a “check”. An inspection is generally something that a site is required to do by a compliance obligation. An audit is the process of checking that compliance obligations have been met, including that the required inspections have been done.

The Office of Risk Management performs informal audits on campus to ensure environmental strategies comply with the applicable Regulations and also to identify areas of improvement. For example, walking through campus and ensuring that silt fences / inlet protection are in place and functional at construction sites to protect the municipal sewers.

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