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

The Environmental Management and Protection Act addresses the construction of waterworks so as to ensure that the water is safe and potable and not prone to discharge of any substances that might cause it to be unsafe.

The Water Security Agency Act establishes the Water Security Agency, and its mandate includes ensuring safe drinking water sources and reliable water supplies in the province.

Ground Water Regulations specifies the need for a permit in order to conduct a ground water investigation and operate a ground water drilling machine. Moreover, a drilling report must be completed and forwarded to the Saskatchewan Water Resources Commission within 30 days of completion of a drilling well. In addition, the regulation asks that upon construction of a well, it must be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned of all foreign substances.

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 Environmental Management and Protection Act designates the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe standards for construction, alteration and operation of effluent works, sewage works and waterworks as well as permits and orders related to them.

The Health Hazard Regulations lists the duties of public water supplies owners and operators and require them to obtain a local authority's approval to establish or alter a public water supply.

The Private Sewage Works Regulations prescribes the need for an authorized permit in order to install or alter a private sewage works.

The Water Regulations outlines the requirements for permits, including waterworks operation and setting of drinking water guidelines.

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:

The Public Health Act states that the municipal council is responsible for the provision of a potable water supply and a functional system for sewage disposal.

The Health Hazard Regulations states that the person responsible for water delivery by way of a bulk water tank must ensure that the water is potable and obtained from a waterworks subject to a permit that rightfully authorizes its operation.

The Municipal Refuse Regulations prohibits the transportation and disposal of liquid domestic sewage without a permit issued by the minister, as designated by the Executive Council.

The Water Regulations stresses the importance and necessity of providing suitable and safe water for human consumption.

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 Environmental Management and Protection Act states that the Lieutenant Governor in Council makes regulations respecting operator training and qualifications, and the establishment of a certification board for the purpose of certifying operators of waterworks and sewage works.

The Water Regulations outlines the certificate requirements for operators and provides for some minimum certificate exemptions for certain municipal sewage works. Renewal and expiry of certificates are also addressed in this regulation.

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 Health Hazard Regulations requires the operator to provide ongoing treatment required by the local authority in case a health hazard is suspected and requires the owner or operator of a public water supply to immediately notify the local authority of any event or situation that may affect the safety of the public water supply and of any breakdown or disruption.

The Water Regulations sets standards for chemical treatment, constituents in water, microbial and bacteriological constituents in water, and water turbidity. For instance, operation may not be initiated until a water distribution system has been thoroughly disinfected.

The Saskatchewan Municipal Drinking Water Quality Guidelines are the minimum community monitoring 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:

The Health Hazard Regulations highlights the importance of regular sample taking and testing for hazardous substances and exceeded levels of bacteria or other contaminants in the water. Upon any water test, the results must be sent to the appropriate laboratory for analysis. In case of suspicion of potential contamination of the water supply, a local authority may require the operator or owner of a public water supply to conduct additional tests and submit more samples for analysis.

The Water Regulations requires that water samples be taken regularly during the operation of the waterworks to test for bacteria and chlorine. In addition, if sample test results show a higher level of any bacteria than is set out as acceptable in these regulations, the permittee shall conduct any additional testing at the times and frequencies as directed by the minister, as designated by the Executive Council.  "A Guide to Waterworks Design is among the three guidelines adopted (including the Guidelines for Sewage Works Design", and the "Municipal Drinking Water Quality Monitoring Guidelines" by the Ministry of Environment. They shall be made available to the public in any manner that the minister considers likely to bring them to the public's attention.

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 Environmental Management and Protection Act deems the Minister of Environment responsible for the collection, processing and storage of data on water quality in the province. The department of environment must submit, annually, to the Minister a ‘State of Drinking Water Quality Report' that is then tabled by the Minister before the Legislative Assembly.

The Water Security Agency Act allows the Agency to disseminate information on the quality, quantity and other aspects of water programs to the public.

The Health Hazard Regulations requires the laboratory to report the results of samples analysis within seven days of completion of the analysis.

The Water Regulations states that tests must be conducted and information collected as required by the permit. It is essential to maintain operational records and logs. All analytical protocols and procedures must be available to the public and every permittee of a waterworks must have a written quality assurance and quality control policy. In addition, every permittee of waterworks supplying water for human consumption shall provide his/her consumers with a notification of water quality as well as his/her compliance with the sample submission requirements.

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 Municipal Refuse Regulations mandates that no person shall dispose of liquid domestic sewage at a waste disposal ground.

The Private Sewage Works Regulations prohibits any sewage effluent to be discharged into surface water, into subsoil within 10 metres of any dwelling, on to the ground surface within the limits of any city or town, on to the ground surface or into the subsoil within 15 metres of a drilled well, or within 30 metres of any other well or water supply used for domestic purposes. 

The Water Regulations requires the permittee to disinfect any effluent from the sewage works, and to immediately report to the minister, as designated by the Executive Council, any instance where disinfection equipment required by the permit fails or the level of disinfection required by the permit is not achieved.

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 Environmental Management and Protection Act requires that the discharge of a substance into the environment causing an adverse effect must be reported to the minister, as designated by the Executive Council, land owner, employer, or anyone that might be affected by said discharge. The minister may, in case the water supplied by a waterworks is causing an adverse effect on human health or the environment, issue a public drinking water advisory or issue an emergency waterworks or sewage works order to a person responsible for the affected works. 

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 Environmental Management and Protection Act mandates the minister, as designated by the Executive Council, to issue an environmental protection order in case of a discharge of a harmful substance.  He or she also has the power to conduct investigations and issue advisories.

The Public Health Act orders public health officers to inspect and test premises as deemed necessary and establishes penalties for offences that result from contravention of this Act.

The Ground Water Regulations order a penalty for an offence that results from an operation of a machine for drilling not registered with the Saskatchewan Water Resources Commission.  

The Water Regulations authorize the Operator Certification Board with the review of applications for certificates and investigation of certification applicants. Moreover, the minister, as designated by the Executive Council, may cancel, amend, alter, or suspend any permit to protect human health.  

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 Public Health Act requires that upon an appeal of an order by filing a notice with a local registrar of the Court of Queen's Bench, a copy of the notice of appeal be served on the medical health officer who had issued the order.

The Water Appeal Board Act authorizes the Water Appeal Board to affirm or vary the action, order or decision appealed from, substitute its own decision for the decision appealed from, or make any order that it considers appropriate.

The Water Security Agency Act allows for an appeal of a decision of the Water Security Agency to the Water Appeal Board as well as against the amount of the costs set out in the certificate to a judge of the Court of Queen's Bench.

The Public Health Appeals Regulations allows any person to appeal an order under the Public Health Act.

 
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