Readers are referred to the writer’s earlier memoranda dealing with the above subject matters:
(i) a paper entitled “New Provincial Government Rules for Wastewater Management Systems”; and
(ii) a paper entitled “Further Thoughts on the New Provincial Government Rules for Wastewater Management Systems”.
In these memoranda (the “Original Memoranda”), I attempted to outline the application of the Manitoba Wastewater Regulation (passed under the Manitoba Environment Act), as amended by Manitoba Regulation # 156/2009 which was registered September 28, 2009, and, to raise certain questions relating to problems or potential problems which I thought would or could arise out of such application.
After considerable lobbying by concerned stakeholders, the provincial government has further amended the Onsite Wastewater Management Systems Regulation by Manitoba Regulation # 60/2010 which became effective May 25, 2010.
The writer has sought and obtained certain clarifications and advice from Manitoba Conservation Environmental Services (“Manitoba Conservation”) regarding the Regulation as most recently amended (the “Amended Regulation”) and now wishes to report to those interested, as follows:
- The general rules (originally specified in MR156/2009) apply with respect to wastewater management systems and sewage ejectors, namely:
(a) if one’s property is serviced by a wastewater management system and the property is also capable of being serviced by a community wastewater collection system, then, if that was the situation on September 28, 2009, the property owner must decommission their wastewater management system and “connect” to the “community” wastewater collection system within the earlier of five years from September 28, 2009 and the transfer or subdivision of their property. If one did not have a community wastewater collection system available to be connected to on September 28, 2009, but subsequently, such a collection system is put in place, then the owner must decommission and connect to the (new) collection system by the earlier of five years from when the newly installed collection system is available and the transfer or subdivision of the property;
(b) where one has a sewage ejector on their property on September 28, 2009, the owner must take it out of service by the earlier of the transfer or subdivision of the property.
In both of the above situations, if the owner fails to remediate prior to transfer to a new owner, the new owner is obligated to remediate within two years from the change of ownership.
- The latest amendment to the Regulation now provides for certain exemptions applicable to property owners with sewage ejectors on them, although not for property owners with other types of wastewater management systems. These exemptions are:
(a) for where the property owner with a sewage ejector on it sells to a purchaser and the purchaser undertakes in writing to remove the sewage ejector after acquisition of the property (within the earlier of two years following acquisition and subdivision or transfer by the purchaser);
(b) for where the sewage ejector:
(i) is not located within certain restricted areas specified in the Regulation (which includes the "Red River Corridor" and provincial parks); and
(ii) is in compliance with all regulatory requirements applicable to sewage ejectors;
and the property owner, not more than one year prior to contemplated transfer or subdivision, seeks and obtains a certificate of exemption from the government (if the exemption is issued, then, subject to the terms thereof, neither the owner or a subsequent owner needs to remove the ejector); and
(c) for where the owner of the property on which a sewage ejector is situated decides to subdivide the property into two or more lots with one only of those subdivided lots having the ejector on it, the owner may, with the government’s approval, complete the subdivision and sell off all of the lots except the one with the ejector on it provided that the owner then removes the ejector on the retained property within up to a maximum of two years from subdivision.
- As noted, the above-described exemptions apply only to sewage ejectors, and not to wastewater management systems. This means that where at the time of a sale, a wastewater management system on the property which is supposed to be removed by virtue of the sale is not removed by the seller, but instead is removed by the purchaser (with there no doubt being an adjustment in the purchase and sale price accordingly), then even though the purchaser properly remediates, the seller is still open to prosecution. In this writer’s opinion, this is somewhat of an absurdity. Unfortunately, at the present time, the government does not appear to have any plans to extend the sewage ejector type exemptions to wastewater management systems.
- Samples of the forms required by Manitoba Conservation to be used to apply for exemptions may be obtained at
http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/envprograms/wastewater/index.html, and the fees for processing exemption applications range from $50.00 to $150.00.
- Manitoba Conservation is entitled to impose conditions on exemption orders. Manitoba Conservation has advised that the types of conditions imposed on any particular exemption order “will be consistent with the intent of the Act and would be determined on a case-by-case basis”.
- It is important to note that where a purchaser undertakes responsibility to remove a sewage ejector following closing, but for whatever reason, the sale and purchase transaction fails to close, the Regulation recognizes that the purchaser will be relieved - as far as the government is concerned- from its undertaking. Needless to say, where the deal between a seller and a purchaser is that the purchaser will remediate after closing, the sale and purchase agreement should correspondingly specify that the purchaser is relieved of any obligation to remediate if the purchase and sale transaction fails to close for any reason whatsoever.
Some other matters to note are:
(A) Manitoba Conservation provides a file search service for $94.50 (which includes GST). Unfortunately, if the information which is provided when a search request is made does not:
(i) indicate whether or not the particular property searched is serviced by a community wastewater collection system; nor
(ii) indicate whether or not the local government with jurisdiction over the property searched has indicated to Manitoba Conservation that the local government intends to bring in a community wastewater collection system which would be available to service the subject property within the next five years.
Presumably someone interested in obtaining this information would have to first determine what is the relevant local government and then request that local government to provide this information. Whether or not any particular local government will be willing and/or able to provide this information and at what cost is not known to this writer.
(B) Regarding the meaning of the word “transfer”:
(i) “transfer” is now defined in MR60/2010 as “including”, among other modes of change of ownership, “transmissions”. Change of ownership from one person to another where both persons are spouses or common law partners are not considered to be a “transfer”. But all other changes of ownership which occur by operation of law are caught within the definition. Thus, it is at least arguable that changes of ownership occurring by reason of bankruptcy, intestate succession (except amongst spouses and common law partners), corporate amalgamations, etc. would constitute “transfers”, thus triggering an obligation to remediate (in the absence of an exception). The definition of “transfer” applies to both dealings with properties which have sewage ejectors on them and properties which have wastewater management systems on them. Given the use of the word “include” in the definition of “transfer”, a Court called upon to analyze the language may – or may not – hold that non-consensual changes of ownership are “transfers” within the meaning of the Regulation. Manitoba Environment advises that it will deal with each situation on a case-by-case basis;
(ii) It is unclear as to whether or not “transfer” includes the leasing of a property, an absolute assignment of an existing leasing of a property and/or a transfer of the beneficial ownership interest in a property (where a title remains in the name of the “old” owner and the “old” owner takes a declaration of trust stating that it now owns the property as a bare trustee for the “new” owner). Again, Manitoba Conservation advises that they will deal with such situations on a case-by-case basis.
Unfortunately, given the above, it will be somewhat difficult to predict in advance as to whether or not certain change of ownership transactions will be treated by Manitoba Conservation (and for that matter, the Courts) as “transfers” under the Regulation;
(iii) The Regulation, even as most recently amended, still does not indicate whether or not a privately owned community wastewater collection system would be treated as a wastewater collection system for the purposes of the Regulation. While the vast bulk of wastewater collection systems are and will no doubt be owned by some level of government (typically a municipality), it is certainly conceivable that a number of property owners in proximity to each other might band together and establish their own wastewater collection system.
Hopefully, the government/Manitoba Conservation will either further amend the Regulation to clarify the issues raised above, or at the very least, will, by way of one or more policy statements, give some guidance to stakeholders regarding these matters.