The following FAQs are intended as a general guide to water and sewer regulation in Prince Edward Island.
What is the Commission’s role regarding the regulation of water/sewer utilities?
The Commission has general supervision over all municipal water and sewer utilities in the province with the exception of those utilities operating in Charlottetown, Summerside, Stratford and Cornwall.
Primarily, the Commission:
- determines water and sewer rates;
- considers applications for construction or changes to central water/sewer systems, particularly as to how proposed projects are expected to impact on utility rates;
- provides support and direction to utilities;
- assists with the resolution of disputes; and
- responds to various inquiries.
For detailed information on the Commission’s authority, please see the Water and Sewerage Act.
Which water/sewer utilities does the Commission regulate?
There are 27 utilities under the Commission’s jurisdiction.
You can check out a list of the utilities and their rates on the Utility Rate Schedule.
How are water and sewer rates determined?
Utility rates are designed based on the costs to provide the service. All rates are approved by the Commission in accordance with Section 9 of the Water and Sewerage Act.
Why do utilities’ rates vary from community to community?
It’s difficult to compare utility rates as each utility has unique operating costs. Many variables affect rates. For example, the era of when a utility was first constructed impacts capital costs. A system installed in the 1970s cost much less than one built in the 1990s. The amount of funding towards projects affects these costs as well.
In addition, certain systems are designed with greater mechanical and technological components which results in increased fuel and electricity costs. Some utilities also require more manpower to operate, and the size of a system and the number of customers sharing the costs also affect the utility’s rate amount.
How does a utility go about changing its rates?
In order to change its rates, a utility must file an application with the Commission. Following receipt of a rate application, the Commission conducts a review and independent analysis of the utility’s filing. A notice of application is published allowing ratepayers an opportunity to provide comments on a utility’s application before it is finalized.
The Commission’s decision on rate matters is presented in a written Order, and includes a Tariff of Rates and Charges. Water/sewer Orders can be found here.
If I have a question or a problem with my water/sewer service, what should I do?
Do I have to pay for water/sewer service if I’m not connected to a central system?
If the service goes by your property and there is a building on the land that has plumbing facilities on site (i.e. kitchen/bathroom), then you are required to pay for the service regardless of whether you are connected per section 10.1 of the Water and Sewerage Act.
What happens if I’m not connected to the service and I don’t pay my water/sewer bill?
Any bill issued to a customer by the utility constitutes a statutory lien on the serviced property until payment is received. Any outstanding utility balance stays with the property until it is paid. Recovery of payment may be enforced through the sale of the property. More information can be found under section 186 of the Municipal Government Act.
What happens if a service line needs repair?
When there is a problem with the service line, contact your utility immediately. To determine whose responsibility it is to recover costs, please refer to Regulation 4.17.
If there is any uncertainty over whose responsibility the repair costs are, please contact the Commission
What is prohibited sewage?
Certain effluents are not allowed to be discharged into central treatment facilities as they can be harmful and create an added burden on the treatment process.
For example, storm water and surface water runoff, solvents, items that can obstruct flow or interfere with pumping facilities, toxic materials, certain chemicals and animal wastes can be damaging to the system.
A customer’s service can be suspended if they are discharging prohibited matter.
For more information on prohibited sewage, see Regulation 4.21.
What is a sewer line check valve and do I need one?
Where any plumbing fixtures in a building are situated below street level or located where they could be affected by a sewer backup from the central service line, customers are encouraged to install a check valve. The valve is designed to prevent the excess flow from entering into the building’s lines.
All costs for the valve, including installation, are the customer’s responsibility.
Utilities are responsible for reminding customers each year of the need to install a check valve.
Upon notification, if a customer chooses not to install a valve, any damages sustained in the event of a backup are the customer’s responsibility.
For more information, see Regulation 4.20.
What do I do if I have a sewer backup?
If a sewer backup occurs, the customer should:
- quickly close all drain openings with stoppers or plugs;
- prevent any water from running down drains until the blockage has been cleared; and
- if possible, check with neighbours to see if the problem is widespread.
The customer should then contact the Utility to advise them of the problem.
For information on what to do, see the Commission’s notes on Sewer Backup Procedures.
Who pays for water meters?
Some utilities use water meters to measure consumption for billing purposes. The meters are purchased by the utility and the customer pays for the installation.
For information on metering, see Regulations 5.10 through 5.20.
Can I still be billed for water/sewer service when I’m not using the building year-round?
Yes. Utility charges are set in annual amounts. Temporarily-vacated properties, seasonally-occupied premises and long-term vacancies continue to be billed for service.
There is a cost for having service in the ground and available for use whether it’s needed or not and having available service adds value to a property. Utilities rely on all serviced customers to share expenses.
I would like to connect to an existing water/sewer service. What should I do?
Contact your utility regarding an application to connect. The customer is responsible for the costs to install the service lateral from the building to the property line. The utility pays for the lateral from the property line to the central service main.
The utility may have a contractor that they recommend or you may engage your own. Where an independent contractor is used for the installation, the utility must carry out a final inspection, for which they are able to charge a $20.00 fee. Regulation 4.6 provides more details.
I require water/sewer service where currently no service line exists. What should I do?
Contact your utility. Depending on the location of the building requiring services, an extension may be achieved.
The sharing of costs for the extension of services varies depending on the circumstances. Please contact the utility or the Commission for assistance.