City of Guelph settles Crown charges over 2019 bypass spill

Updated wastewater bypass standards provide more rigour to practice

Guelph, Ont., February 9, 2023 – Today the City of Guelph resolved charges brought by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks under the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) related to two spills from a construction-related bypass failure in February 2019. The City pled guilty to one count of causing or permitting the discharge of sewage into a waterway under the OWRA and is paying a fine of $106,250, including the 25 per cent victim fine surcharge.

“The spills, which happened during bypass operations for a City construction project, were caused by unique circumstances including extremely cold weather and malfunctioning equipment,” says Jayne Holmes, deputy chief administrative officer of Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services. “The City takes the protection of the environment seriously and has reviewed and updated wastewater bypass standards to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”


On February 20, 2019, a failure of mechanical bypass equipment used during a sanitary sewer replacement resulted in a spill of sewage. The spill happened as a result of both the main and backup pumping systems failing, due in part to extreme cold weather. Immediate actions were taken to stop and mitigate the impact of the spill, the bypass system was shut down and all City projects requiring a bypass were put on hold while staff reviewed and updated the City’s bypass standards.

Media Contact

Jayne Holmes, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer
Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2248
[email protected]