According to statistics, 86% of the population is served by municipal wastewater systems in Canada. This rate has remained stable over the past few years. Of the remaining 14%, about 12% had their own on-site wastewater treatment system and about 2% were served by systems that discharge untreated wastewater (Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2020). These indicators vary from province to province, with 46% unrelated to municipal wastewater treatment systems in Prince Edward Island compared to 10% in British Columbia, and approximately 11% in Ontario and in Quebec (ibid.).
These statistics provide arguments to organizations responsible for river basin management and other environmental groups to accuse owners of on-site wastewater treatment systems of contaminating waterways. Particularly, we often talk about high levels of fecal coliforms in the lakes and rivers due to the presence of non-compliant septic systems. Should we be concerned about fecal coliforms in the effluent from such systems? Let’s talk about it.