Changes to Toronto sewers bylaw may be on tap

Contemplated new requirements could trickle down to building owners and managers
Thursday, March 26, 2015
By Michelle Ervin

Toronto has two changes to its sewers bylaw coming down the pipes that, if adopted, may trickle down to building owners and managers.

The city is looking at adopting codes of practice for food service establishments and mobile washing business operations to better protect sewers from pollutants such as grease and cleaning chemicals. Staff are currently consulting with stakeholders on these proposed changes, as directed by Toronto City Council in December 2013.

As part of ongoing consultations, Dianne Bravo, research analyst, Environmental Monitoring and Protection Unit, Toronto Water, spoke March 12 at a BOMA Toronto breakfast seminar.

The current Toronto sewers bylaw requires food service establishments including coffee shops, grocery stores and restaurants to stop the fat, oil and grease (FOG) their operations generate from going down the drain. The bylaw also requires owners and operators of these establishments to install, operate and properly maintain a plumbing device called a grease interceptor, which traps and separates FOG from water.

The purpose of these bylaw provisions is to prevent the back-ups and spills that can be caused when FOG cool and harden and decrease the capacity of pipes.

A recent pilot project revealed widespread non-compliance with the current bylaw. Between 2009 and 2013, Toronto Public Health included grease interceptors in DineSafe inspections. Inspectors identified 3,118 restaurants with improperly maintained grease interceptors and another 1,735 restaurants with no grease interceptors.

Responding to these non-compliance issues, Toronto Water issued more than 2,000 notices of violation, for which both food service establishments and property owners and managers are held responsible.

The contemplated code of practice for food establishments would specifically require owners and operators to follow the CSA B481 Series-12 standard for grease interceptor maintenance.

“We’ve had a lot of grease issues at the city and this why we’re proposing this amendment where we adopt that standard, which gives a bit more direction and detail on how to maintain that grease interceptor,” said Bravo.

CSA B481.3 also sets out requirements for the size, choice, location and installation of grease interceptors. These requirements would apply to new buildings, businesses and installations. They would also kick in for existing food service establishments if they undergo a “significant change,” such as new ownership or a renovation.

Among other requirements, the standard uses peak flow rate to calculate size of interceptor, and then rounds up to the next highest size for improved interceptor efficiency and storage capacity.

CSA B481.4 sets out requirements for the maintenance of grease interceptors, which would apply to new and existing food service establishments. Among other requirements, owners and operators would need to ensure interceptors are serviced at least every four weeks, and before the FOG and solids exceed 25 per cent of the liquid volume of the interceptors.

“Compared to the other cities around us — Hamilton, York, Durham — we’re a little bit behind,” said Bravo. “They’ve actually already adopted this [CSA] standard.”

The contemplated code of practice for food service establishments would include a number of additional provisions.

City staff are proposing that food service establishments hire a Ministry of Environment and Climate Change-certified waste hauler to clean grease interceptors and keep a service monitoring log that Bravo likened to bathroom cleaning logs. They are also proposing good kitchen practices including posting signs saying “no fat, oil or grease down the sink” and measures for protecting storm sewers including barring mop water from being dumped outside, since it likely will have contaminants exceeding the storm sewers bylaw limits.

Another aspect of the current Toronto sewers bylaw that the city is trying to tighten up are its provisions for mobile washing business operations. Companies that use trucks and water to provide services such as graffiti removal and parking garage cleaning are prohibited from tapping fire hydrants for water and from releasing wastewater into the catch basin.

In practice, both of these activities are occurring. As in the case of food service establishments, the city not only holds mobile washing business operations responsible for non-compliance issues, but also the property managers and owners who hire them.

The contemplated code of practice for these operations would essentially set out permitted water sources and wastewater disposal options with the aim of preventing pollutants from entering sewers. If the code of practice is adopted, property managers and owners would be able to confirm a mobile washing business operator’s compliance by checking the signed declaration form all operators would be required to sign.

Bravo noted that the contemplated changes may cause mobile washing business operations to hike the price of their services.

“We have heard back from the Mobile Wash Working Group that … having to get proper equipment to contain that water may increase their costs, and of course that will be felt by the customer,” she said.

Staff are expected to report back to Toronto City Council in late 2015 with finalized recommendations, though Bravo said staff will ask for more time to work out the details of the mobile washing business operations code of practice. If council adopts the code of practice for food service establishments, it could roll out as early as 2016.

Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.