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2004 Wastewater — Co-winner 2

City of Thunder Bay, Ontario

Pollution Prevention and Control Plan

Population: 114,000

An expanded sewage treatment plant in the City of Thunder Bay will virtually eliminate pollutants from treated effluent. As part of the city's Pollution Prevention and Control Plan, the facility uses biological aerated filtration to provide secondary treatment and a nitrification process to substantially eliminate ammonia from the treated effluent. Ultraviolet disinfection is being introduced to eliminate chlorine. These works were funded through a user pay sewer rate system and a grant from the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund. Thunder Bay is the first Northern Ontario municipality to introduce electricity cogeneration using sludge gas generated by treatment processes, which eliminates the waste of surplus gas and reduces the need for natural gas. The city also set water conservation targets for the next 15 years and has approved a goal to generate a reserve fund of $10 million-through the user pay system-over the next seven years, once the $91 million plan is completed.


The City of Thunder Bay, located at the head of Lake Superior, has been very proactive over the years with respect to water source protection, winning numerous awards for its water conservation initiatives. Even the city's logo, Superior by Nature, attests to the priority it places on environmental protection. Since 1997, the city has also been a participant in FCM's Partners for Climate Protection.

Lake Superior is the cleanest of the Great Lakes, but in the mid to late 1980s Doug Scott, the city's manager of engineering, reported that there were some "shocking examples of water and air pollution from industry."

These examples, among others, helped spur both Canada and the United States to sign an agreement in 1986 to protect water quality in the Great Lakes. The agreement committed both countries to work on action plans to address problems in 43 "areas of concern," so named because the areas contained contaminated sediment, inadequately treated wastewater, non-point source pollution, or degraded habitat. Thunder Bay was identified as one of these areas.


  • With the expansion of the sewage treatment plant eliminating most pollutants, Thunder Bay should be removed as an area of concern by the end of 2004 or early 2005.
  • All chlorine and almost all ammonia have been eliminated from treated effluent.
  • The sewer surcharge will generate a reserve fund sufficient to finance all aspects of the PPCP and create additional reserve funds for future needs.
  • Virtually all basement flooding has been eliminated and there has been a substantial decrease in sanitary and combined sewer overflows during wet weather.
  • The city won the 2003 Ontario Water Works Association award in recognition of its comprehensive water efficiency program.

Lessons Learned

  • BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE. In the past, the city operated under a status quo approach of simply meeting provincial regulations without looking further ahead. "Broader planning must be done sooner so that you don't have sudden surprises," said Mr. Scott. In particular, he cited the reserve structure that the city set up as a tremendous benefit in helping to provide sustainable financing.
  • MAKE ASSET MANAGEMENT A PRIORITY. Transportation & Works (the department responsible for the PPCP) has set the standard for the city with this project and has influenced how other departments view asset management issues. For example, the city's Parks & Recreation department is now reviewing the condition of all its buildings and identifying what upgrades will be needed. "Using asset management, you can plan upgrades in a way that will avoid any spending surprises."
  • BIG PROJECTS NEED BIG MONEY. Mr. Scott said that, these days, it is almost a certainty that large infrastructure projects will require some level of funding from senior governments and that municipal governments should be prepared for what can be a lengthy funding process.

Partners and Collaboration


  • Transportation & Works Department


  • Ontario Ministry of Environment
  • Environment Canada
  • Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan, Public Advisory Committee
  • Infrastructure Canada
  • EcoSuperior Environmental Programs
Page Updated: 21/12/2015