ARCHIVED - Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Sources of Drinking Water: Summary of Alberta'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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act prohibits the release of a substance into any part of a waterworks system that may cause potable water to be unfit.

Water supply systems that comply with the Code of Practice for a Waterworks System Consisting Solely of a Water Distribution System, adopted under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement (Miscellaneous) Regulation, must complete a Drinking Water Safety Plan (DWSP).   A DWSP is a proactive method of assessing risks to drinking water quality, to better protect public health. Plans are based on an assessment of risk factors that could potentially adversely affect drinking water quality.

The Nuisance and General Sanitation Regulation establishes requirements for the protection of drinking water in relation to water tanks, cisterns, and wells.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Activities Designation Regulation designates approvals, registration and operating permits for classes of drinking water and wastewater systems.

The Approvals and Registrations Procedure Regulation describes the approval and registration process for systems regulated under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement (Miscellaneous) Regulation requires waterworks systems to have approval. It adopts both the Code of Practice for a Waterworks System Consisting Solely of a Water Distribution System and "The Code of Practice for Waterworks Systems Using High Quality Ground Water". Waterworks systems, as classified by the Activities Designation Regulation, must follow the design and construction requirements of the applicable code.

The Potable Water Regulation requires that water system design, extension and replacement meet the standards and requirements set out in "Standards and Guidelines for Municipal Waterworks, Wastewater and Storm Drainage Systems".

The Private Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation, enabled by the Safety Codes Act, governs the design and installation of onsite sewage systems that are for less than 25 cubic meters of sewage per day.

The Wastewater and Storm Drainage Regulation requires that wastewater system design, extension and replacement to meet standards and requirements in "Standards and Guidelines for Municipal Waterworks, Wastewater and Storm Drainage Systems".  This Regulation requires wastewater systems to have approval. It adopts both the Code of Practice for Wastewater Systems Using a Wastewater Lagoon and the Code of Practice for a Wastewater Systems Consisting Solely of a Wastewater Collection System. Wastewater systems, as classified by the Activities Designation Regulation, must follow the design and construction requirements of the applicable code.

The Water (Ministerial) Regulation details requirements for the design, construction (and drilling), location, operation, and maintenance of water 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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

According to the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the content of a truck used for collecting wastewater must be taken to an approved wastewater facility or the hauler must obtain a Letter of Authorization from the Director as designated by the Minister responsible for the Act. The hauler must identify the method of disposal and apply for a letter of authorization. If the application is acceptable then a letter of authorization will be issued which will include the requirements that must be met for the proposed disposal method.

Under the Food Regulation, each water hauler is issued a Food Handling Permit with a requirement to meet the provisions under the Nuisance and General Sanitation Regulation.

The Nuisance and General Sanitation Regulation requires that hauled water be protected from contamination and that the equipment used to haul drinking water is maintained and operated in a clean and sanitary condition.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Potable Water Regulation requires that a water treatment plant and water distribution system must be operated by a person holding a valid certificate of qualification, and establishes the certification process as directed by the "Water and Wastewater Operator's Certification Guidelines".

The Wastewater and Storm Drainage (Ministerial) Regulation requires that a wastewater treatment plant and wastewater collection system must be operated by a person holding a valid certificate of qualification, and establishes the certification process as directed by the "Water and Wastewater Operator's Certification Guidelines".

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Potable Water Regulation states that the characteristics of the potable water in a waterworks system must be maintained to meet, as a minimum, the applicable Maximum Acceptable Concentration or Interim Maximum Acceptable Concentration specified in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, published by Health Canada.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Potable Water Regulation requires that water samples be obtained and submitted to an approved laboratory, and the minimum number of water samples to be obtained for analysis must be obtained in accordance with the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, published by Health Canada.

The Wastewater and Storm Drainage Regulation refers to the "Standards and Guidelines for Municipal Waterworks, Wastewater and Storm Drainage Systems: Parts 3, Wastewater Systems Standards for Performance and Design of a Total of 5 Parts" which outlines the monitoring requirements and reporting requirements. The Approval or Code of Practice for the specific systems will outline the specific monitoring and reporting requirements for the facility.

The Wastewater and Storm Drainage (Ministerial) Regulation requires samples at wastewater systems be obtained and submitted to an approved laboratory, and analytical results be submitted in accordance with an approval, the applicable code of practice or a notice in writing from the Director as designated by Ministerial Order.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement (Miscellaneous) Regulation requires waterworks systems to have approval. Approvals will outline the monitoring and reporting requirements. Those that obtain a registration will have to meet the monitoring and reporting requirements outlined in the Code of Practice for a Waterworks System Consisting Solely of a Water Distribution System or The Code of Practice for a Waterworks Systems Using High Quality Ground Water.

The Potable Water Regulation states that a person responsible for a waterworks system is required to submit returns and reports respecting the construction, operation or reclamation of the system as required in an approval or the applicable code of practice, or as required by the Director, as designated by Ministerial Order, by a notice in writing.

The Wastewater and Storm Drainage Regulation requires wastewater systems to have approval, which will outline the monitoring and reporting requirements. Those that obtain a registration will have to meet the monitoring and reporting requirements outlined in the Code of Practice for Wastewater Systems Using a Wastewater Lagoon or the Code of Practice for Wastewater Systems consisting solely of a Wastewater Collection System.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Wastewater and Storm Drainage Regulation outlines requirements for the handling, use and disposal of wastewater treatment products.  The regulation requires approval to outline requirements for disposal of treated wastewater or bio-solid or any other material from the systems. Those that obtain a registration will have to follow the requirements in the Code of Practice for Wastewater Systems Using a Wastewater Lagoon and the Code of Practice for Wastewater Systems Consisting Solely of a Wastewater Collection System which will outline the requirements for disposal of treated wastewater or bio-solid or any other material from the systems.

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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act authorizes the use of emergency measures if potable water may cause adverse affects on human health.

The Public Health Act authorizes the use of a state of public health emergency. The Public Health Act empowers the provincial executive officer (either the MOH or health inspector) to issue an order to take action or close a facility.  Part 3 of the Public Health Act applies to communicable diseases and public health emergencies and allows for collection of case information, isolation and quarantine, and response to outbreaks.

The Water Act authorizes the use of emergency measures related to the operation of water 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 Legislation and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act details the authority for issuing environmental protection orders and the provisions for environmental protection orders.  It also describes the powers and authorities for the Minister of the Environment and inspectors and investigators of the ministry.

The Public Health Act provides Executive Officers the authority to conduct inspections for determining a nuisance or compliance with the Act and the qualifications of Executive Officers. Executive Officers include the public health inspector/environmental health officer and the medical officer of health.

The Water Act states that it is an offence to knowingly or unknowingly contravene the Act.

The Water (Offences and Penalties) Regulation lists offences and penalties that may be imposed if deemed to be guilty of an offense and liable. 

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 Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act establishes the Environmental Appeals Board, details its duties and powers, and describes the submission requirements for notice of appeals of orders under the Act.

The Environmental Appeals Board Regulation details what a notice of appeal must contain.

The Public Health Act establishes the Public Health Appeals Board, describes its duties and powers, and states that a person who is directly affected by a decision of a regional health authority may appeal the decision to this Board.

 
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