October 2013

Amendments to the regulation respecting waste water disposal systems for isolated dwellings

By Stéphanie Provost Lawyer

On June 19, 2013, the Québec government adopted decree 674-2013, which amended division XVI of the Regulation respecting waste water disposal systems for isolated dwellings (R.R.Q., c. Q-2, r.22) on the sanctions and fines for offences.

Previously, section 89 of the Regulation stipulated that any offence against a provision, save certain exceptions, made a system owner liable to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2 000 in the case of a first offence. The fines for corporations were double.

The new amendments allow for much higher penalties. Section 89 now includes sub-sections 89.1 to 89.5, which list the different types of offences and corresponding fines. The fines were increased significantly: for an individual, the minimum fine is now $1 000 and the maximum is $500 000. Certain offences (e.g. discharging or allowing the discharge into the environment of effluents from the toilet of an isolated dwelling) could lead to a prison sentence of up to 18 months (3(1)). The fines for individuals and corporate bodies vary between $3 000 and $3 000 000.

It is important to note that section 115.28 of the Environment Quality Act stipulates that an administrative penalty may be imposed by a municipality, which must keep the amounts collected and use them to finance environmental measures and programs for the application of Regulation Q-2, r.22.

The new provisions came into effect on July 18, 2013, and therefore only apply to offences occurring after this date.

The amendments are especially relevant to municipalities struggling with citizens whose septic systems cause recurrent issues. Towns and cities now have greater power of persuasion to incite residents to correct problematic situations before issuing significant deterrents such as notices and fines. The amendments are a simple and effective way to ensure that all citizens comply with the Regulation.