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Drains, Sewers, & Flooding

There are two types of sewers systems: storm and sanitary. Flooding can occur if the sewer connection to a building becomes blocked or when catch basins or culverts are blocked.

Pilot Program:   
LittaTraps Prevent Litter from Entering Stormwater Drains

The City of Barrie is ​​​undertaking a pilot program to catch litter before it enters city select storm​ water drains, to help protect Lake Simcoe.

In 2019, one LittaTrap unit was installed in a pedestrian-heavy area of downtown Barrie, which resulted in 473 pieces of garbage being captured in just five months. From the success of this initial study, the City rolled out a subsequent pilot program; 112 LittaTrap units were installed downtown in fall 2021.

The traps are being used to further monitor pollutants and manage litter hotspots.The LittaTrap filters capture garbage and pollutants larger than 5mm that enter drains during rainfall and snow melt. This prevents litter from entering the Lake Simcoe ecosystem and helps protect the environment.​

Pilot Program Q&As
How often do LittaTraps need to be cleaned?   

One of the goals of the pilot project is to determine how often they will need to be cleaned. The inserts are being checked regularly over the winter to track how quickly the waste is building up. Once it's at a point of needing to be cleaned staff issue a work order for one of our Operations crews to clean the insert.

How is success being measured?

Once summer 2022 arrives and summer students are on staff, we plan to implement what we call a waste audit. Our students will have the task of monitoring a sample of the inserts and tracking all the waste collected. This way we will be able to predict how much waste we are annually diverting from entering the bay and with what frequency we should be cleaning the devices we have installed.

Is there a flooding risk if there is significant rainfall?

LittaTraps units are designed with an overflow component to ensure that flows that are directed to the catch basins are not impeded during high intensity storm events or if the screening bag is full of litter.

LittaTrapLitter caught by LittaTrap 

Storm Sewer System

The municipal storm sewer system collects rainwater and surface water runoff from roads and parking lots into natural channels and catch basins (storm grates) and transports it to various points in Kempenfelt Bay.

Water that enters a storm drain is NOT treated to remove pollutants; it is important not to dispose of any waste materials into any storm water collection point. Please help protect our drinking water sources.

Oil Grit Separator (OGS) units are included in most newer storm sewer designs, but not all areas of Barrie have OGS units. These units can remove suspended solids from stormwater. There is a limited capacity in most OGS units to capture floating contaminants (oils, gasoline, etc.). Routine maintenance empties these units of sediment and oils, and emergency cleanouts can be required.

Sanitary Sewer System

The municipal sanitary sewer system is a system of underground pipes that transport sanitary sewage from the plumbing of privately owned buildings to the Wastewater Treatment Facility (WwTF). Manholes are used at designated intervals in a sewer line as a means of access for inspection or cleaning.

The sewage is treated at the WwTF and clean treated water is discharged into Kempenfelt Bay. To ensure a properly functioning transportation and treatment system, certain materials should NOT be disposed into sinks or toilets.

When disposed of into sinks or toilets, these common items can cause blocked drains, equipment damage, injury to a WwTF employees, and/or poor sewage treatment:

Disposable diapersAny plastic materials
Baby wipes or toysKitchen grease
Sanitary napkinsOil, fuels & other hazardous materials
Combs or brushesBuilding foundation drainage (sump pump water)
HairNewspapers, rags, cloths, cleaning wipes, paper towels

Blocked and/or Damaged Drains & Sewers

If you have water coming back up your drains (i.e. basement floor drain) you may have a blocked drain. To help avoid a common cause a blocked lateral, please review Grease Management for your Home.

City crews can determine whether the blockage is in the main* or in the homeowner's sewer lateral. If the blockage is in the main that runs down the middle of the street, the City is responsible for clearing it.

The homeowner is responsible for the sewer line (lateral) from the house to the main. City staff can clear it for the homeowner at the following rates:

  • Minimum 1-hour call out: $270 / hour
  • Calls after 4pm Monday–Friday and all day Saturday (minimum 2hr call out): $404 / hour 
  • Calls on Sunday or statutory holidays (minimum 2hr call out): $535 / hour 

*It is City policy when responding to calls regarding blocked sewers to check the main, whether the caller thinks the blockage is their responsibility or not.  If the main is blocked it could affect more than one property. Once it has been verified that the blockage is not in the main, the homeowner should call a​​ private service provider.

Grant Available: Sanitary Sewer Lateral Repair & Replacement

Barrie property owners are eligible for a grant for costs incurred in the replacement or repair of a failed sewer lateral (unless the cause of the blockage is an object introduced to the sewer lateral from the building), where the blockage or failure occurs in the portion of the sewer lateral between the property line to the sewer main (under City property, see diagram) and the repair or replacement has been undertaken by the City of Barrie. Please review the Sanitary Sewer Replacement Brochure​ for full details regarding this grant.


Flooding can occur if the sewer connection to a building becomes blocked by tree roots, grease, objects and other debris. Flooding can also occur during spring and summer storms and also when catch basins or culverts are blocked. Basic preventative measures include:

  • do not put grease or objects (such as diapers, wipes, paper towels, rags, dental floss) down your toilet or drains.
  • consider installing a sump pump if required. 
    Sump pumps are installed in the basement of homes to collect water from the foundation of the house and pump it out onto the lawn to prevent basement flooding.
  • keep catch basins clear of leaves and debris. In the fall, sweep up leaves for bagging or composting to prevent excess debris from entering the sewer system.
  • consider having your plumbing cleared of any debris, roots, etc.

If you have a back-up of water and/or sewage in your basement, please:

  • Check the toilets and sinks and clear any blockages.
  • If that doesn’t solve the problem, please call us at 705-726-4242.
  • Avoid using your plumbing until the problem has resolved to minimize any damage.
  • Make notes of everything that happens (i.e. where and when the water came in, anything you did to help alleviate the flooding). This will help City staff or your plumber determine the cause of the flooding.

It is important that any obstructions that can contribute to flooding be reported to the City of Barrie as soon as possible.

Creeks & Watercourses

During spring weather conditions and heavy rainfall events, water levels in local creeks and watercourses can rise and be dangerous. Please contact the City at 705-726-4242 (after-hours, please press 0) to report any of the following:

Sewer Use By-Law

The Sewer Use By-law prohibits, regulates and inspects the discharge of water and sewage into Barrie’s sanitary and storm sewers. The by-law establishes limits for water quality parameters such as phosphorus, nutrients, and suspended solids. To maintain properly functioning sewers, hazardous substances such as paints and fuels must not enter the municipal sewer systems. Unacceptable discharges to sanitary and storm sewers could result in:

  • the release of harmful substances to Lake Simcoe.
  • damage to municipal infrastructure.
  • interference with normal operation of the WwTF.
  • Inability to re-use the treated sludge (biosolids) as an agricultural fertilizer.
  • threat to the health and safety of the public and City staff.

To ensure that this does not happen, discharges must be controlled at their sources.  All Industrial/Commercial/Institutional (ICI) businesses must complete a Sewer Use Report​​ which  furnishes information such as a description of operations, wastewater characteristics, disposal practises, spill prevention and schematic process diagrams. These reports assist the City to better understand and monitor ICI facilities. 

The Environmental Investigation and Response Section enforces the Sewer Use By-law for all residents and ICI  facilities through compliance inspections and monitoring.

The Benefits of the Sewer Use By-law

  • Healthier aquatic environment
  • Protection of Lake Simcoe and its tributaries
  • Improved water quality
  • Safe conditions for recreational water activities
  • Continued beauty of local natural resource for citizens’ enjoyment

Sewer Rates & Exemptions

The City’s water supply and wastewater systems are self-funded, drawing all Operating and Capital funds from the sewer rate, which is based upon water consumption. For residential customers, the rates are applied in an increasing block structure: the more water used, the more expensive it is.  Sewer Rate Exemptions are available for any residents who have an approved septic system not connected to City's sewer system. To obtain an exemption please apply through Environmental Services by calling 705-739-4219.

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