Groundwater Dewatering Discharge in the City of Vancouver

Aug 21, 2019

Groundwater and stormwater are required to be managed during site construction activities in the City of Vancouver (COV).  For a property that had industrial or commercial activities or is a contaminated site, the water would be required to be managed under a Waste Discharge Permit until remediation is complete or it is determined to not be a contaminated site.  The City of Vancouver’s Sewer Watercourse By-law No. 8093 (the By-law) defines a contaminated site as an area of land in which the soil or groundwater or sediment contains wastes or prescribed substances in any quantities or concentration exceeding provincial risk based or numerical criteria, standards, or conditions. Alternately, if the site did not have historical commercial or industrial activities and is not contaminated, the water generated during the construction program would be managed under an erosion and sediment control plan.  If the site is the former, then a Waste Discharge Permit or a Groundwater Declaration Authorization is required prior to the issuance of a Building Permit.

Sanitary Sewer Discharge – Waste Discharge Permit

The WDP application process includes completing the application form, estimating anticipated flow and determining treatment requirement. Once the application is approved and a permit is issued, the treatment system will be implemented and operated. Regular monitoring, sampling and reporting are required during the course of the permit period. Associated fees to the permit include application fees, discharge fees, City’s administration fees. Operating cost includes treatment system cost, chemical cost, analytical cost, and monitoring cost.

When nearing completion of the construction activities it is typical that the erosion and sediment control program is completed as the building foundation drains are connected to the storm sewer.  For COV they require that a groundwater declaration be completed prior to allowing the building foundation drainage to be connection to the storm sewer.  Should contaminated groundwater remain on the site then COV will not permit connection of the building foundation drainage to the storm sewer and will require that it be directed to the sanitary sewer under a Waste Discharge Permit.

Storm Sewer Discharge – Groundwater Declaration Authorization

To obtain authorization to discharge to storm sewer system, a Contaminated Site Groundwater Quality Declaration form is required to be completed by a Qualified Professional. Regular monitoring, sampling and reporting are also required during the course of the discharge duration. There is no fee associated to obtaining the authorization, but operating cost include treatment system cost, chemical cost, analytical cost and monitoring cost.

The Groundwater Declaration Form currently references the BC Water Quality Guidelines as the criteria that must be met to permit discharge to the storm sewer.  In our discussions with the City of Vancouver, on a case by case basis, they have indicated that they may accept CSR Aquatic Life Standards as acceptable criteria, which is not as stringent as BC Water Quality Guidelines.

For more information please contact Kevin Wong, P.Eng. ( or Raminder Grewal, P.Eng., ( or call 604-430-0671.

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