Research Projects

The ORWC is a leader in research in the on-site sewage industry and is involved in numerous research projects with different government agencies throughout Ontario. Click on one of our projects below for more information on our current projects, or visit our Past Projects page for a complete list of all research projects conducted by ORWC in the past.

You can also visit our Research Reports page for publications.

Field Testing of Pathogen Reduction Rates in Septage Storage Lagoons - 2010
As a follow up to the industry survey and lab trials regarding septage stabilization study conducted in 2007, three field trials were carried out to examine the reductions in pathogens in the fall, winter and summer periods. The trial periods lasted from 46 to 113 days and tried to capture the dynamic and static phases of operation at a typical storage lagoon facility in Ontario. Two lagoons were used in the trials and the characteristics of both the raw and stored septage for all trials were found to be consistent with previously reported values of typical septic and holding tank septage in Ontario.

Viability of Hydrogen Peroxide as a Method of Septage Treatment - 2009
In efforts to improve source water protection in rural Ontario, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has committed to phasing out the land application of raw septic tank and holding tank waste. Suitable treatment of septage before land application will include screening to remove large debris, and some means of reduction of pathogens to acceptable levels.  Although a number of management options have been investigated, including taking septage to local wastewater treatment facilities, alkaline stabilization and lagoon storage, more options are necessary where none of the established approaches will work. One approach that may hold promise is the use of hydrogen peroxide for the inactivation of the pathogens in septage. 

Investigation of Pathogen Reduction in Septage Using Storage Lagoons - Industry Survey and Lab Trials - 2007
Septage management is an essential component of an overall wastewater management program in rural parts of Ontario. While land application of untreated septage has been used in the past, current trends are toward a higher level of treatment and a ban on land application of untreated septage. The focus of this study was to investigate possibilities for using the treatment that occurs during storage of septage in lagoons as a viable means of treating septage. This included investigating the numbers, sizes and types of lagoons used for septage across the province as well as lab trials to investigate the effectiveness of the storage for treatment under different temperature conditions and different mixtures of septage from septic and holding tanks.

Alkaline Stabilization and Screening of Septage in Ontario - 2005
Land application of untreated septage (domestic wastewater from septic tanks, holding tanks, and portable toilets) in Ontario is being phased-out by the Ontario Government over a period of five years. This move was prompted by concern over pathogens in untreated septage and their potential to impact source waters. Additional concerns with septage include odour, vector attraction and the presence of debris. One method to reduce pathogens is through the alkaline stabilization process. Debris can be removed through effective screening of septage prior to land application.

Circuit Rider Training Program Development Project - Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation - 2006
Concern is mounting among First Nations communities and small rural communities in Ontario, and in other provinces and territories in Canada, because “the current system has created a situation in this country where a community’s location will be a large factor in determining the quality of water being delivered to homes not only in terms of source water quality, but also because of the skill levels and competencies required of treatment plant operators serving the community and town.” The ORWC has teamed together with the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation to develop training material for water and wastewater treatment plant operators.

Development of Potential Technical Standards for Reinspection of Onsite Sewage Systems and Data Collection Guidelines to Develop Risk Models for Potential Reinspection Programs - 2006
In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to onsite systems and their possible role in contributing to ground and surface water contamination. This is particularly true in Ontario since the events in Walkerton. Provincially, there is currently no requirement for reinspection of onsite systems beyond initial installation inspections. However, in the past decade twenty-three municipalities have initiated their own reinspection programs to ensure they are protecting public health and the environment. Additionally, new legislation (Bill 43) has recently been introduced to facilitate the expansion and financing of these programs at the municipal level. The purpose of this study was to examine the existing reinspection programs currently delivered across the province and to develop potential standards for reinspection on onsite systems and to develop data collection guidelines for potential risk models.

Protection of Groundwater Below Onsite Systems - Determination of Pathogen Removal Efficiencies by Soil Absorption Systems - 2006.
Nearly 30% of Ontario’s homes are serviced by onsite wastewater systems. These systems discharge partially treated sewage back to the environment relying on the underlying soil for final treatment, in particular the removal of biological contaminants such as bacteria and viruses. In many regions onsite systems are identified as one of the most likely sources of contaminants to ground and surface water systems. Design standards for these systems have remained relatively unchanged for nearly 30 years. In particular, the vertical separation requirements – largely in place to remove biological contaminants – are the same as they were when regulations were first introduced into the province some 30 years ago. The ability of the soil to remove these contaminants has been largely untested under field situations. This proposal is to investigate the effectiveness of these soils systems to effectively remove biological contaminants under a wide range of conditions currently allowed in Ontario for soil systems. The outcome will be a better understanding of the mechanisms of removal and the adequacy of the current approaches.

Reed Bed Septage Dewatering Pilot Project – 2006-2008
Vertical reed bed filters and sand drying bed filters are simple technologies which can be used to dewater septage. Reed Bed Filters have a further advantage that they can stabilize the solids into an odourless – pathogen free organic fertilizer similar in quality to an organic compost. Sand Bed Filters have the potential to stabilize septage solids to a quality similar to a digested sewage biosolids that is suitable for land application. Two pilot Reed Bed Filters and one pilot Sand Bed Filter are being constructed and evaluated for a two year period at the septage lagoon of Goulet Pumping in Green Valley, Ontario. Each filter will receive between 1-2 loads of septage per week (12,000-24,000 L/week).

Rural Wastewater Reuse in Morocco – 2005-2011
Wastewater infrastructure in rural and peri-urban areas of Morocco are either poorly developed or non-existent. At the same time there is growing water scarcity throughout much of Morocco. The objectives of this project are to develop a series of applied research and demonstration technologies relating to wastewater treatment and reuse, to develop and deliver a series of training seminars throughout rural Morocco and to update university training curriculum in the field of wastewater management and reuse. This project is a collaborative initiative between University of Guelph (ORWC) and our partner institution in Morocco, l’Institut Agro-Vétérinaire Hassan II.
Evaluation of the Laflèche Pilot Peat Filter/Constructed Wetland System to Treat Landfill Leachate - 2002-2007
A pilot scale treatment system was established in 2002 at the Laflèche Landfill in Eastern Ontario, Canada. The system consists of a series of treatment steps: a stabilization basin (10,000 m3), a woodland peat trickling filter (5200 m2), a subsurface flow constructed wetland planted in Phragmites sp. (2600 m2), a surface flow constructed wetland planted in Typha sp. (3600 m2) and a polishing pond (3600 m2). The system operates from May to December with leachate being recycled within the landfill during the winter months. Treated effluent is either discharged to a nearby drain or used to irrigate onsite poplar plantations. Hydraulic loading rates have been increased 3 fold while organic loading rates have doubled over the first 4 operating seasons. A comprehensive monitoring program for system performance is being conducted (organic matter, nutrients, salts, metals) with the data used to determine kinetic pollutant removal rates.
Biofood to Biofuel Research and Demonstration Farms – 2005-2006
This project is a capital project to construct two on-farm biogas digesters to produce heat and electricity on two dairy farms in Eastern Ontario. The economic and performance data from the digesters will be available to researchers at the University of Guelph for 10 years. This project is a companion project to the ETAA project.
Assessment of the Production and Land Application of Anaerobically Digested Manure from Medium Sized Dairy Farms – 2005-2008
This project evaluates the performance, environmental impact and economics of three medium on-farm anaerobic digester systems. Digester performance will be evaluated as a function of the size of the system, biogas/energy production, climate and feedstock utilized (dairy manure blended with high strength organic wastes). A complete life cycle evaluation assesses nutrient, carbon and pathogen fate from feedstock to field including: greenhouse gas emissions (CH4, CO2, N2O), nutrient fate (plant/soil/water/air) and pathogen attenuation from the digesters, manure storages and finally land application on three soil types (sandy-loam, clay and clay-loam soils).
Optimizing Energy Production using Co-substrates in the Anaerobic Digestion of Dairy Manure – 2006-2008
The addition of organic substrates to the farm digesters will be evaluated for enhanced biogas production and reactor stability. Lab scale experiments will be utilized to evaluate and select appropriate co-substrates for farm scale digester testing and to optimize manure and co-substrate mixtures (C:N), temperature, pH and moisture content to enhance biogas production. The use of co-substrates to enhance biogas production will be verified in farm scale anaerobic digesters.
Use of a Constructed Wetland to Polish Municipal Lagoon Effluent – 2000-2007
A constructed wetland demonstration system has been built to polish the municipal lagoon effluent from the Village of Alfred. The treatment lagoons have an annual discharge in the spring and have currently reached maximum capacity; inhibiting further population growth or expansion of the local agri-food industries. The demonstration wetland system is designed to treat 15% of the village’s municipal wastewater, which represents a wetland influent flow of 155 m3/day or 23,250 m3/year. A monitoring program was put in place to evaluate the wetland as a cost effective means to treat the municipal lagoon wastewater. The monitoring program evaluates the wetland’s ability to polish the municipal lagoon effluent to meet the Spring/Summer/Fall discharge criteria set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for the receiving water body (Azatica Brook). The approval of the Alfred wetland will allow the village to increase its capacity for municipal wastewater treatment.