ARCHIVED - Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Sources of Drinking Water: Summary of Ontario’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 Actto 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:

Clean Water Act protects drinking water from source to tap with a multi-barrier approach that prevents contaminants from entering sources of drinking water by establishing source water protection authorities and source water protection plans.

Environmental Protection Act prohibits the discharge of any contaminant into the natural environment, including water that causes or may cause an adverse effect.

Ontario Water Resources Act provides for the conservation, protection and management of Ontario's waters and for their efficient and sustainable use, in order to promote Ontario's long-term environmental, social and economic wellbeing.  Waters, including those that are a source of public water supply, may be defined under this Act to prohibit contamination.

General defines activities prescribed as drinking water threats.  It defines the procedure, including the preparation and approval, of terms of references for source protection areas. 

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:

Ontario Water Resources Act requires environmental compliance approvals before constructing, altering, and operating sewage works system.

Safe Drinking Water Act governs municipal drinking water systems and regulated non-municipal drinking water systems, which include those that serve residences and designated facilities. Under the Act, no person shall establish a new municipal drinking water system or replace or carry out an alteration to a municipal drinking water system except under the authority of and in accordance with an approval or with a drinking water works permit and a municipal drinking water license.  The Act details the requirement for an application for the establishment, replacement, or alteration to a regulated non-municipal drinking water.

Building Codes sets construction requirements for septic tanks.

Drinking Water Systems outlines the minimum requirements for operational checks and maintenance for its applicable drinking water systems. 

Licensing of Municipal Drinking Water Systems outlines requirements for license applications, drinking water work permit applications, and operational plans submissions.

Small Drinking Water Systems requires notification to the ministry regarding location, construction and alterations of small drinking water systems, and establishes risk assessments and directives for operation and maintenance.

Wells regulates location, design, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning for wells.

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:

Health Protection and Promotion Act gives authority to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care the authority to regulate the distribution of water by truck.

Drinking Water Systems regulates the design of storage containers for transported water.

General – Waste Management regulates waste management systems used for hauled sewage and design components for hauled sewage tanks.

4. Key Essential Regulatory Component: Training and 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:

Certification of Drinking Water System Operators and Water Quality Analysts regulates the certification process for municipal drinking water system operators.

Licensing of Sewage Works Operators regulates the certification process for wastewater system operators.

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:

Drinking Water Systems establishes minimum treatment requirements for municipal drinking water systems.

Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards details microbiological, chemical, and radiobiological parameters for municipal drinking water systems.

Small Drinking Water Systems and Transitional - Small Drinking Water Systems establish minimum treatment requirements.

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:

Safe Drinking Water Act requires that accredited laboratories have a drinking water testing licence.

Drinking Water Systems establishes minimum microbiological, chemical and lead sampling and testing parameters, as well as organic and inorganic material testing parameters.

Drinking Water Testing Services sets out conditions for testing licenses and testing method standards, and references the "Protocol of Accepted Drinking Water Testing Methods".

Schools, Private Schools and Day Nurseries states that the operator of a school, private school or day nursery shall ensure that samples of water are taken in accordance with the regulation.

Small Drinking Water Systems and Transitional - Small Drinking Water Systems establish minimal monitoring, sampling and testing requirements.

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:

Safe Drinking Water Act establishes laboratory duty to report adverse drinking water tests in small drinking water systems.

Drinking Water Systems establishes reporting requirements for owners and operators of municipal drinking water systems.

Small Drinking Water Systems establishes reporting requirements for owners and managers of small drinking water systems.

Wells establishes reporting requirements for owners and operators of wells.

Schools, Private Schools and Day Nurseries requires that the operator of a school, private school or day nursery ensures that daily and weekly flushing reports, results of tests, including adverse test results, and other reports of activities required in this regulation are available for inspection by any member of the public during normal business hours without charge at the school, private school or day nursery. The operator of a school, private school or day nursery shall ensure these documents are kept for at least six years.

Transitional – Small Drinking Water System establishes operator duty to report adverse drinking water tests in small transitional drinking water systems.

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:

General – Waste Management regulates sewage biosolids, such as distance from watercourses and residences.

Ontario Water Resources Act gives the Minister of the Environment the authority to regulate the collection of sewage.

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 waterborne illness event, there will be little time for determining roles and responsibilities.

Provincial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Ontario Water Resources Act establishes provincial officer authority to order for discharge of sewage.

Safe Drinking Water Act establishes the authority of the Minister and Director of the Environment to issue notices of emergency responses.

Drinking Water Systems, Transitional – Small Drinking Water Systems and Small Drinking Water Systems establish corrective action requirements regarding adverse testing results.

Schools, Private Schools and Day Nurseries states that if the laboratory result of the test exceeds any of the standards prescribed the laboratory shall, within 24 hours, report the result in writing to the operator of the school, private school or day nursery, the medical officer of health; and the Ministry's Spills Action Centre.  When this occurs, the operator of the school, private school or day nursery shall take such steps as are directed by the medical officer of health.

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 on 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 on 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 Clean Water Act gives municipal councils the authority to enforce regulations under the Act and establishes risk management officers and inspectors, who have the authority to inspect and issue orders.

The Health Protection and Promotion Actestablishes the authority of the Chief Medical Officer to act where there is a risk to public health and establishes the powers of the medical officer of health, public health inspector, and inspector.

The Safe Drinking Water Act gives the Minister of the Environment the authority to issue an order if there is an imminent health hazard, authorizes the Director of the Ministry of the Environment to add a certificate of compliance as a condition of system approval and water works permits, and establishes of provincial officers as inspectors with the authority to conduct inspections and issue orders. The Act details penalties for non-compliance.

The Compliance and Enforcement Regulation details municipal drinking water system and laboratory inspection requirements and authorities.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Clean Water Act states that any person can appeal an order made under this Act to the Environmental Review Tribunal.

The Health Protection and Promotion Actstates that any person is entitled to a hearing by the Board of Health when issued an order.

The Safe Drinking Water Act states that every decision by the Director of the Ministry of the Environment is reviewable and establishes the right to appeal a decision under this Act to the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Small Drinking Water Systems states that a person has the right to request a review of a directive to the medical officer of health.

 
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