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Canada's Core Public Infrastructure Survey: Wastewater and solid waste assets, 2016

Released: 2018-11-14

Municipal and regional governments have made a significant investment in facilities to deal with what Canadians flush, send down the drain, or throw out.

In 2016, regional and municipal governments in Canada owned over 1,200 wastewater treatment plants, more than 6,000 wastewater pump stations, nearly 5,000 wastewater lift stations, over 1,200 lagoon systems and almost 700 wastewater storage tanks. They also owned nearly 143,000 kilometres of sewer pipes—enough to cross Canada 15 times at its widest point—and about 9,000 kilometres of sanitary forcemains.

Solid waste assets owned by regional and municipal governments in 2016 consisted of about 1,200 transfer stations, close to 500 materials recovery facilities, about 300 composting facilities, as well as 21 anaerobic digestion facilities. They also owned nearly 500 active engineered landfills, over 400 active dump sites, 13 incinerators, 14 energy from waste facilities, and about 1,200 closed sites.

Statistics Canada, in partnership with Infrastructure Canada, has launched its first-ever catalogue of the state of the nation's infrastructure to provide statistical information on the stock, condition, performance and asset management strategies of Canada's core public infrastructure assets. This includes a wide variety of assets owned and operated by provincial, territorial, regional and municipal governments consisting of bridges and tunnels, roads, wastewater, stormwater, potable water and solid waste assets, as well as social and affordable housing, culture, recreation and sports facilities and public transit. The Daily is carrying a series of releases to present the information, each addressing a sub-group of these assets, with this being the fourth installment. This release presents findings on wastewater assets and solid waste assets, with two more releases planned for the coming weeks.

Wastewater assets

In 2016, regional and municipal governments in Canada owned 1,259 wastewater treatment facilities, 1,244 lagoon systems, 6,104 wastewater pump stations, 4,762 wastewater lift stations, and 685 wastewater storage tanks, collectively referred to as non-linear wastewater assets.

In addition, there were 142,878 kilometres of sewer pipes, most of which (80.6%) had a diameter that was smaller than 450 millimetres, as well as 8,616 kilometres of sanitary forcemains. Collectively these assets are referred to as linear wastewater assets.

Municipalities own over four-fifths of every type of wastewater asset

Municipalities owned over 80% of all types of non-linear and linear wastewater assets in 2016.

Of municipally-owned assets, urban municipalities owned the majority of wastewater pump stations (70.6%) and wastewater lift stations (54.1%), while they accounted for smaller shares of wastewater treatment plants (45.9%), wastewater storage tanks (34.9%), and lagoon systems (29.1%).

Urban municipalities also owned more than four-fifths of almost every type of municipally-owned sewer pipe, as well as over two-thirds (68.8%) of municipally-owned sanitary forcemains.

Less than half of every type of publicly-owned non-linear wastewater asset built after 1999

About two-fifths of wastewater storage tanks (42.8%), wastewater treatment plants (37.7%) and wastewater lift stations (36.8%) have been built post-1999, while 28.7% of wastewater pump stations and 25.8% of lagoon systems were completed over this period.

For most types of sewer pipes, less than one-quarter of their length was completed after 1999, while 43.8% of sanitary forcemains were constructed after 1999.

Most wastewater assets reported to be in good or very good physical condition

Owners of the assets were asked to rate the overall physical condition of their wastewater assets using the following condition rating scale: very poor, poor, fair, good and very good. See note to readers for a detailed description of each condition rating.

Wastewater storage tanks (83.5%) were most frequently reported to be in good or very good physical condition. Between one-half and two-thirds of almost every other wastewater asset type were also reported as being in good or very good physical condition. Less than 15% of each asset type were reported to be in poor or very poor condition.

Among the provinces and territories, 93.8% of wastewater treatment plants in Prince Edward Island were reported to be in good or very good condition, while 21.5% of wastewater treatment plants in Alberta were reported to be in poor or very poor condition. Meanwhile, 96.5% of wastewater pump stations in Prince Edward Island were reported to be in good or very good condition, while 13.7% of wastewater pump stations in Ontario were reported to be in poor or very poor condition.

New wastewater pump stations expected to last more than four decades

Among non-linear wastewater assets built in 2016, wastewater pump stations had the longest average expected useful life (42 years), while the other types were expected to last from 27 years to 31 years on average, depending on the asset type.

Sewer pipes of diameter greater than 1,500 millimetres built in 2016 were reported, on average, to last an expected 100 years. Depending on asset type, other new linear wastewater assets built in 2016 were expected to last, on average, from 41 to 76 years.

About two-fifths of owners have a wastewater asset management plan

Slightly less than two-fifths (38.3%) of wastewater asset owners had a wastewater asset management plan in 2016. Close to half (48.2%) of owners without a plan expected to implement one within four years.

Almost one-quarter (23.0%) of owners that do have an asset management plan update it every year, while 31.0% update theirs every two to four years and 37.5% update their plan every five years or more.

Four-fifths (80.1%) of owners in Ontario had a wastewater asset management plan.

Solid waste assets

In 2016, regional and municipal governments in Canada owned 1,187 transfer stations, 458 materials recovery facilities, 268 composting facilities, 21 anaerobic digestion facilities, 462 active engineered landfills, 412 active dump sites, 13 incinerators, 14 energy from waste facilities, and 1,172 closed sites.

Municipalities own over three-quarters of each type of solid waste asset

Municipalities owned three-quarters or more of every type of solid waste asset, with the exception of incinerators (15.4%) and energy from waste facilities (21.4%).

Rural municipalities owned the majority of most types of municipally-owned solid waste assets, except for closed sites and incinerators, where about half of each were owned by urban municipalities, and energy from waste facilities, which were all owned by urban municipalities.

Most landfills, active dump sites, and closed sites built before 2000 

Over four-fifths of closed sites (82.9%) and active dump sites (81.2%), and 64.9% of active engineered landfills were built prior to 2000.

Conversely, 89.8% of anaerobic digestion facilities, 84.3% of energy from waste facilities, 77.3% of composting facilities, 76.4% of incinerators, 72.1% of materials recovery facilities and 67.3% of transfer stations were built from 2000 onwards.

Over two-thirds of every type of publicly-owned solid waste asset in good or very good physical condition

Owners of the assets were asked to rate the overall physical condition of their solid waste assets using the following condition rating scale: very poor, poor, fair, good and very good. See note to readers for a detailed description of each condition rating.

Anaerobic digestion facilities (94.6%), incinerators (84.2%) and materials recovery facilities (80.4%) were most often reported to be in good or very good physical condition.

About three-quarters of energy from waste facilities (76.4%), active engineered landfills (74.9%), composting facilities (71.3%) and transfer stations (71.0%) were also reported to be in good or very good physical state, while more than half of closed sites (62.4%) and active dump sites (51.6%) were reported to be in good or very good physical condition.

Less than 13% of solid waste assets—whatever the type—were reported to be in poor or very poor physical condition.

Among provinces and territories, active dump sites were most often reported to be in good or very good condition in Nova Scotia (75.0%) and British Columbia (73.7%), and were most often to be reported in poor or very poor condition in Nunavut (53.5%).

New energy from waste facilities and new engineered landfills expected to have longest average useful lives

Among solid waste assets built in 2016, energy from waste facilities had the longest average expected useful life, at 28 years, followed by active engineered landfills, at 27 years.

In contrast, composting facilities that were built in 2016 were expected, on average, to have the shortest expected useful life at 11 years, while every other type of solid waste asset completed in 2016 was expected to last, on average, from 15 years to 20 years, depending on the asset type.

Nearly three-quarters of owners have no solid waste asset management plan

In 2016, 74.8% of owners did not have a solid waste asset management plan. Over one-third (35.2%) of owners without a plan expected to implement one within four years, while 7.3% were planning to implement one in five or more years.

Just over one-quarter (25.3%) of owners without a plan did not intend to implement one, while more than one-quarter (26.0%) reported that they did not know when they would implement one.

Almost two-thirds (65.9%) of owners with a solid waste asset management plan updated their plan every one to four years, while 25.4% of owners updated their solid waste asset management plan every five or more years.

Among the provinces, 43.7% of owners in Ontario had a solid waste asset management plan. 



  Note to readers

Canada's Core Public Infrastructure Survey 2016 was conducted in partnership with Infrastructure Canada.

Data are based on responses from approximately 1,500 government organizations selected from Statistics Canada's Business Register, the central repository of information on public and private organizations operating in Canada. It is used as the principal frame for most of Statistics Canada's economic statistical programs. The following organizations are included in the survey:

  • Provincial and territorial departments and ministries responsible for roads; bridges and tunnels; public social and affordable housing; culture, recreation and sports; and public transit
  • Regional governments within the urban core
  • Urban municipalities
  • Rural municipalities with at least 1,000 residents.

The survey results cover nine asset types (bridges and tunnels; culture, recreation and sports facilities; potable water; public transit; roads; public social and affordable housing; solid waste; storm water; wastewater) as well as information on asset management practices, 13 geographic regions, 5 municipality sizes and urban/rural municipalities.

Throughout this release, the term "publicly-owned" refers to an asset being owned or leased by the regional and municipal orders of government.

Respondents were asked to rate the overall physical condition of their assets by using the following condition rating scale:

Very poor: The asset is unfit for sustained service. Near or beyond expected service life, widespread signs of advanced deterioration, some assets may be unusable.

Poor: Increasing potential of affecting service. The asset is approaching end of service life; condition below standard and a large portion of system exhibits significant deterioration.

Fair: The asset requires attention. The assets show signs of deterioration and some elements exhibit deficiencies.

Good: The asset is adequate. Acceptable, generally within mid stage of expected service life.

Very good: Asset is fit for the future. Well maintained, good condition, new or recently rehabilitated.

An asset management plan defines how a group of assets is to be managed over a period of time. The asset management plan describes the characteristics and condition of infrastructure assets, the levels of service expected from them, planned actions to ensure the assets are providing the expected level of service, and financing strategies to implement the planned actions.

Information on other asset types will be released over the coming weeks.

Wastewater assets

Non-linear wastewater assets include wastewater treatment plants, lagoon systems, wastewater pump stations, wastewater lift stations and wastewater storage tanks.

Linear wastewater assets include sewer pipes and sanitary forcemains.

Solid waste assets

Collection assets: Waste, recyclable and organic materials collection methods include curbside collection, back door pick-ups, and automated collection. The waste, recyclable or organic materials may be taken to an intermediate site or to a final disposal site.

Transfer stations include facilities at which wastes transported by vehicles involved in collection are transferred to other vehicles that will transport the wastes to a disposal (landfill or incinerator) or recycling facility.

Waste diversion assets include composting facilities, materials recovery facilities, and anaerobic digestion facilities.

Composting: A managed, biological process through which organic matter is degraded under aerobic conditions to a relatively stable, humus-like material called compost.

Material recovery facility: A facility in which recyclable materials are removed from waste, or mixed recyclable materials are sorted into distinct categories and prepared for shipment.

Anaerobic digestion: A controlled and managed biological process that uses microorganisms to break down organic material in the absence of oxygen.

Waste disposal assets include engineered landfills (active), dump sites (active), closed sites (inactive engineered landfills and dumps), incinerators and energy from waste facilities.

Engineered landfill: A landfill designed to meet or exceed jurisdiction of authority requirements for the protection of the environment and human health. The design incorporates both the attributes of the natural environment and supplements them with the necessary engineered systems to achieve the required level of protection.

Incineration: The burning of waste in an incinerator is essentially a rapid oxidation process that generates heat and converts the waste to the gaseous products of combustion, namely carbon dioxide and water vapour, which are released to the atmosphere.

Energy from waste: Technologies that process waste using high temperatures to reduce the quantity of material requiring disposal, stabilize the material requiring disposal, and recover energy and potentially material resources.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

For more information about why the survey was conducted and how it will inform infrastructure policy and program development and investment decisions, please contact Infrastructure Canada (toll-free: 1-877-250-7154 or 613-948-1148 or by email at infc.info.infc@canada.ca) or Infrastructure Canada Media Relations (toll-free: 1-877-250-7154 or 613-960-9251 or by email at infc.media.infc@canada.ca).

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