ARCHIVED - Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Sources of Drinking Water: Summary of Nova Scotia's Regulations

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Introduction

While all provinces and territories have laws governing drinking water and wastewater management, there is no regulatory regime governing the same on First Nation lands. The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act (the Act), which came into force on November 1, 2013, allows for the development of federal regulations to close this regulatory gap so that residents on First Nation lands have comparable levels of health and safety protections for drinking water as other Canadians.

Subsections 5(3) and 5(4) of the Act allow for regulations made under this Act to incorporate by reference laws of the province/territory, with adaptations to address the realities on First Nation lands. One set of regulations will be developed for each region, to harmonize as much as possible with each province's/territories' specific mechanisms for regulating water and wastewater.

The purpose of this summary is to present the 11 essential regulatory components under the Act. These components have been identified by AANDC, Health Canada, and the Department of Justice as essential to meeting the Act's objective of protecting public health. The summary maps the 11 essential regulatory components against relevant provincial/territorial acts and regulations. These acts and regulations are under consideration for incorporation into federal regulations to be made under the Act. Feedback provided by First Nation leadership, their technical experts, and other stakeholders on this summary will help inform the drafting of federal regulations for the relevant region.

Disclaimer

This summary has been prepared by a third party. It does not represent the Government of Canada's official position on the content of federal regulations to be developed under the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, nor does it represent any position of the provincial government.

Similarly, in no way should this summary be relied on, as constituting legal advice of the Government of Canada, nor does it provide a complete description of the content of the province's drinking water and wastewater regulatory regime. Any errors or inaccuracies are not intentional, and the Government of Canada is not responsible for anything resulting from the reader's use of, or reliance on, these materials.    

1. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Protecting sources of drinking water

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Section 4(1)(b)

Sources of drinking water need to be protected from contamination. Drinking-water sources in particular need to be protected with the view to protecting human health. Regulatory requirements must protect sources of drinking water from potential sources of contamination, such as requiring minimum distances between wells and septic systems.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environment Actrequires that no person shall, knowingly or otherwise, release or permit the release into the environment of a substance in an amount, concentration or level or at a rate of release that causes or may cause an adverse effect, unless authorized by an approval or the regulations. Water works can manage source water protection through land acquisition, public education, best management practices, developing contingency plans, applying for a Protected Water Area Designation, and enforcement of a Municipal Source Water Protection Plan.

The Municipal Government Act allows municipalities to apply for Protected Water Area Designation, which also makes possible the enforcement of a Municipal Source Water Protection Plan.

    

2. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Location, design, construction, modification, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning of drinking water and wastewater systems

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Sections 4(1)(c) and 4(1)(e)

Drinking water systems need to be located, designed, constructed, modified, maintained, and operated in accordance with applicable standards so that the drinking water they produce is safe, clean, and reliable. The same principle applies to wastewater systems. Wastewater needs to be treated effectively. These requirements are typically detailed in permits, sometimes known as approvals. All provincial and territorial governments in Canada require some form of permit for drinking water and wastewater systems.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Activities Designation Regulations requires that the construction, operation or reclamation of a sewage works, septage works and municipal water works may proceed only after Nova Scotia Environment has issued an Approval to Operate and a Facility Classification Certificate.

The Approvals Procedure Regulations detail that plans and specifications, if required by the Minister or an Administrator, are to be stamped by a professional Engineer licensed to practice in Nova Scotia.

The On-site Sewage Disposal Regulations (NS Reg 194/2007) regulates design, selection, construction, and ownership of an on-site sewage system.

The Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations requires Nova Scotia public drinking water supply owners to register their water supply under a process structured and monitored by the Nova Scotia Environment. Not all publicly and privately owned facilities are classified. All municipal facilities are classified and registered facilities are classified if they are non-transient and have complex treatment (classified as a water treatment facility) or serve over 500 persons (classified as a water distribution facility).

The Well Construction Regulations requires those drilling, digging, constructing, repairing, modifying or decommissioning wells or installing, repairing or modifying pumping equipment to have a certificate of qualification. A certificate of qualification is not required to dig or drill a well on land that the individual owns or leases.

3. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Distribution of drinking water and collection of wastewater by truck

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Sections 4(1)(d) and 4(1)(f)

In rural, low-density areas, distribution of drinking water can occur by tanker truck and stored in tanks or cisterns. Similarly, sewage removal by tanker truck from household holding tanks and delivery to treatment facilities may also occur. First Nation communities are often small, remote, and rural and sometimes use these systems. These types of delivery and removal systems may also be used if there is a disruption in normal operations. Regulations will allow for the development of enforceable standards for the construction, operation, and maintenance of equipment associated with bulk transport of drinking water and wastewater.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

It appears as if the Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations have a broad enough definition of a water distribution facility to encompass non-piped water delivery systems.

4. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Training and certification of operators

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Section 4(1)(a)

Those responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of drinking water and wastewater systems must have the appropriate training and certification. Requirements for the training and certification of operators must be included within regulations and must be proportional to the facility's complexity. Provincial and territorial certification requirements are well established in Canada and can be supported by successful training initiatives such as the Circuit Rider Training Program. Hub-models, wherein a certified operator has responsibility for operating and managing more than one system, should be allowable.  

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations requires that owners of facilities must have a qualified operator in overall direct charge. Operator certificates are issued by the Association of Boards of Certification, Atlantic Canada Water and Wastewater Voluntary Certification Board or an administrator. A facility without a designated operator may submit a transition plan to be approved by an administrator.

5. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Treatment standards

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Sections 4(1)(f) and 4(2)

Treatment standards are required to manage the risk from hazards that may compromise public health and safety. Regulations must allow for the authority to set standards for physical, chemical, biological and radiological parameters. With respect to drinking water quality, the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality is endorsed by a federal-territorial-provincial committee and will be used as a basis for drinking-water quality standards. There will be a need to consider variations to meet local needs for some values, such as total dissolved solids, that are more aesthetic than health-based. Discussions with provinces and territories are needed to determine how the regulation of wastewater treatment standards may change in light of the recent coming into force of the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (SOR/2012-139).

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations requires that all municipal drinking water systems are not to exceed the maximum acceptable concentration or interim maximum acceptable concentration for substances as set out in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for physical, chemical and microbiological parameters.

6. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Monitoring, sampling, and testing

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Sections, 4(1)(g), 4(3)(a), and 5(1)(k)

Monitoring is undertaken to determine whether a system is performing at the appropriate level based on its design. For drinking water, monitoring covers water quality and treatment performance, including source water, process performance, treated water, and distribution system quality. Discussion with provinces and territories are needed to determine how the treatment, monitoring, sampling, and testing of wastewater may be influenced by the recently enacted federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (SOR/2012-139).

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Activities Designation Regulation requires the operation of a sewage works to be designated as an activity under the regulations that requires an approval from the Minister of Environment or his/her designate to operate. Nova Scotia Environment issues the approval which includes terms and conditions that facilities must comply with in order to maintain their approval.

The Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations requires that registered water supplies and approved water supplies are to be monitored by public drinking water supply owner for the parameters listed in those, as well as other substances as may be required by the Minister or an Administrator.

7. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Collection, recording, and reporting of information

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Sections 4(1)(g), 4(3)(a), and 5(1)(k)(l)

The collection, recording, and reporting of information is covered to varying degrees in provincial and territorial regulatory regimes. The collection and recording of information is required to evaluate compliance with standards. For consideration in proposed regulations is a requirement for the reporting of water quality to consumers.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environment Act requires that any person responsible for the release of a substance into the environment that has caused, is causing, or may cause an adverse effect, is to report the release to the Department as soon as that person knows or ought to have known of the release. This Act also requires that records be maintained. Under this Act, regulations may be made that require records to be maintained.

The Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations requires owners of public drinking water supplies to ensure that all routine samples collected are sent from the lab to the owner and these data are made available to Nova Scotia Environment upon request. Micro records are to be retained for two years, chemistry records are to be retained for 10 years. The "Guidelines for Monitoring Public Drinking Water Supplies" provide additional information on sampling parameters, notifying of exceedances of health related parameters and taking corrective action.

8. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Handling, use, and disposal of wastewater treatment products

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Section 4(1)(h)

The primary health hazards associated with wastewater treatment products are excreta-related pathogens, some vector-borne diseases and certain chemicals. Pathogens can survive long enough to be transmitted viably to people and some pathogens can survive long enough to multiply. Requirements for the handling, use and disposal of wastewater treatment products must be designed to protect public health and the environment. Where wastewater treatment products are used, rules are also needed.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Activities Designation Regulations regulates the disposal of sludge, wherein approvals are needed.

The On-site Sewage Disposal Regulations requires that septic tank cleaners need to be registered with Nova Scotia Environment and must dispose of sewage at a facility approved by Nova Scotia Environment.

The Solid Wastes Resource Management Regulations bans bio-solids from landfills.

9. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Emergency measures in response to the contamination of drinking water

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Section 4(3)(c)

It is in the most stressful of circumstances that clearly defined roles and responsibilities of various partners is most crucial, and a good regulatory regime will spell out this obligation to communicate potential hazards/contamination events. Communication of potential hazards is a key step in protecting those that may be in harm's way, and in the event of possible or confirmed water contamination or water-borne illness event, there will be little time for determining roles and responsibilities.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environment Act, section 104(c) requires that where a public drinking water supply owner fails to notify consumers that a public health risk exists, Nova Scotia Environment and Labour will cause a public notification to be issued, including the issuance of boil water advisories.

The Health Protection Act allows medical officers to issue boil water advisories to mitigate the spread of waterborne illnesses. The Chief Medical Officer of Health has the authority to recommend that a public health emergency be declared for all or part of the Province and the Minister has the authority to declare such an emergency.

The Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Conditions Regulations requires that waterborne illnesses be reported to a medical officer.

The Water and Wastewater Facilities and Public Drinking Water Supplies Regulations requires that owners of public drinking water supplies are to inform Nova Scotia Environment if there are problems, and to take corrective action to address any problems which may be identified.

10. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Mechanisms and verification of compliance with the regulations

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Sections 4(3)(b) and 5

Mechanisms for ensuring compliance with regulations, e.g. audits, inspections, monitoring by the regulator or third-party, are needed to determine if standards are met, and enforcement mechanisms are a necessary part of the regulations. Careful consideration of the most effective ways of ensuring compliance with regulations in First Nation communities will need to take place to ensure emphasis is placed on prevention, rather than penalty. Compliance issues will be handled on a case by case basis and adapted to account for the realities in First Nation communities. Where there is no immediate risk of harm, the primary focus will be on working together to achieve compliance.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environment Act states that inspectors, under this Act are deemed to be peace officers and hold the authority to enter and inspect any place to which the Act applies. Police officers are first responders for environmental emergencies but are not asked to conduct audits of water or wastewater facilities. The Act also details the various orders that can be issued for non-compliance with this Act.

The Health Protection Act allows the Department of Health and Wellness to conduct compliance activities related to diseases and health hazards, and issue health hazard orders. Medical health officers and public health inspectors are appointed through this Act.

Under the Well Construction Regulation, the certificate of qualification must be available to be provided to an inspector, and an inspector may refuse to issue or renew certificate of qualification or may require modifications of a well.

11. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Appeal mechanisms

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Section 9

Regulations would require a mechanism for appeals. Appeal tribunals provide a mechanism to assure some checks and balances with appropriate public involvement surrounding regulatory decision-making. Appeals may be brought by the regulated community or others affected by the decisions of the regulator.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environment Act states that a person who is aggrieved by a decision or order of an administrator or person delegated authority pursuant to this Act, may appeal, within 30 days, by notice in writing, stating concisely the reasons for the appeal, to the Minister of Environment.

Under the Health Protection Act, a person to whom an order under the Act may appeal to the Minister, by notice in writing, stating concisely the reasons for the appeal, within ten days of the order being made. The Minister may dismiss the appeal, allow the appeal or make any decision the medical officer or public health inspector was authorized to make. A decision of the Minister may, within thirty days of the decision, be appealed on a question of law or on a question of fact, or on a question of law and fact, to a judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, and the decision of the judge is final and binding on the Minister and the appellant, and the Minister and the appellant shall take such action as may be necessary to implement the decision.

The On-site Services Advisory Board Regulations states that, when considering appeals related to the On-site Sewage Disposal Systems Regulations and Well Construction Regulations, the Minister of Environment may request the On-site Services Advisory Board to provide advice and recommendations that support the review of these appeals. The On-site Services Advisory Board consists of the President of Nova Scotia Groundwater Association or substitute, the Chair of the Waste Water Nova Scotia Society or substitute, three public servants appointed by the Minister, and up to six at-large members appointed by the minister.

 
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