ARCHIVED - Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Sources of Drinking Water: Summary of British Columbia'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 Drinking Water Protection Act addresses the establishment of drinking water protection plans. It also asks that well owners or operators flood proof the well and prohibits anyone from introducing any hazardous substances to a domestic water system or a drinking water source. 

The Ground Water Protection Regulation requires the well owner to install a secure well cap and well cover to the opening of the well and maintain the well adequately so as to prevent entry from the surface of any unwelcome substances.

The Health Hazards Regulation requires that a well be located 30 metres from any probable source of contamination, 6 metres from any private dwelling, and 120 metres from any cemetery or dumping ground.

The Municipal Wastewater Regulation applies to discharges to the ground with a flow greater or equal to 22.7 cubic metres per day, and is from a sewerage system or combination of sewerage systems that serve structures on one or more parcels or strata lots, or on a shared interest, and to water. Also applies to reclaimed water uses. Additional above-mentioned regulations targeting waste discharge under the Environmental Management Act are also applicable to source water protection.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act requires permits for the construction, alteration, or extension of a water supply system. 

The Ground Water Protection Regulation empowers an engineer to ensure that a well meets the minimum standards set out in this regulation and that there is no threat of a contaminant entering the water in the well.

The Municipal Wastewater Regulation establishes requirements for the general design, construction and operation of wastewater facilities.

The Sewerage System Regulation prohibits a person to construct or maintain a sewerage system on his or her own land unless he/she is qualified as an authorized person or does so under supervision of an authorized person.

The Water Regulation regulates the application process related to licenses and approvals.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act considers a truck providing drinking water a domestic water system.

The Sewerage System Regulation obligates any person who wishes to construct a holding tank to first obtain a permit issued under this regulation. Subsequently, the holding tank owner must ensure that a tank on his/her land is maintained in accordance with the obtained permit and must keep records of the tank's maintenance.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act prohibits a person to operate, maintain, or repair a water system without appropriate qualifications or a valid permit.

The Drinking Water Protection Regulation requires water supply operators to be certified by the Environmental Operators Certification Program.

The Environmental Data Quality Assurance Regulation establishes requirements to become and remain listed in the directory of qualified laboratories.

The Ground Water Protection Regulation sets out the rules and requirements related to the application process for the position of a qualified well driller and well pump installer.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act mandates the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe a drinking water source, establish water quality standards in relation to the prescribed drinking water sources, and prohibit persons from doing anything that result in the standards not being met.

The Drinking Water Protection Regulation prescribes the water quality standards for potable water.

The Municipal Wastewater Regulation establishes quality standards for discharges to ground, water, and for reclaimed waters.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act obligates the water supplier to monitor the drinking water source regularly as set out in his/her operating permit.

The Drinking Water Protection Regulation requires the water supplier to transport water samples to an accredited laboratory in accordance with the procedures established by a drinking water officer.

The Environmental Data Quality Assurance Regulation requires that samples be analyzed by a registered laboratory.

The Municipal Wastewater Regulation includes general monitoring requirements, monitoring requirements for discharge to ground and water and for reclaimed water.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act sets out the guidelines for effective monitoring and reporting of sample test results to the drinking water officer.

The Drinking Water Protection Regulation outlines the instances where immediate reporting is required, for example in case water quality standards are not met or failed to meet the immediate reporting standard.

The Municipal Wastewater Regulation establishes administrative requirements for dischargers, including records maintenance and reporting of information.

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 Wastewater Regulation states that a person must not discharge municipal effluent in a manner that would conflict with a liquid waste management plan that is approved by the minister.  Liquid waste management plans include certain requirements related to bio solids and may specify requirements for bio solids or wastewater residuals management (how these will be managed, where the facilities shall be located, etc.). The Minister of Environment approves the final plans after sufficient public and stakeholder consultations have taken place. 

The Organic Matter Recycling Regulation captures the treatment of composed wastewater residuals, or solids resulting from the treatment process.

The Sewerage System Regulation considers the discharge of domestic sewage or effluent into a source of drinking water, surface water, or tidal waters a health hazard.  It requires that all domestic sewage is discharged into a public sewer, a holding tank, or a sewerage system and does not cause a health hazard.

The Waste Discharge Regulation captures bio solids based on the end use/disposal. For instance, composting bio solids is captured in the Regulation as "Composting Operations." Because bio solids can be disposed of in a number of different ways, different "prescribed activities" could apply.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act requires that all water suppliers have a written emergency response and contingency plan in accordance with the regulations. It also allows the drinking water officer to make an order if he/she has a reason to believe that there is a drinking water health hazard and a significant risk of an imminent drinking water health hazard. Subsequently, drinking water officers may investigate the matter if they consider that a threat to drinking water supply exists.

The Drinking Water Protection Regulation states that an emergency response plan is to be accessible to the staff and the drinking water officer. It must include the steps to follow in the event of an emergency or abnormal operational circumstance as well as protocols to follow respecting public notice if an immediate reporting standard is not met.

The Municipal Wastewater Regulation establishes the need for the facilities to have a contingency plan, including emergency procedures.

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 Drinking Water Protection Act mandates drinking water officers to take action if there is a drinking water health hazard and conduct inspections they consider necessary.

The Public Health Act empowers the Minister of Health to establish directives and standards of practice for environmental health officers and to make orders as necessary. It also sets the standards of practice in accordance with which the environmental and medical health officers must act.

The Sewerage System Regulation allows for orders to be made related to a public sewer, holding tank or sewerage system and provides a list of actions considered offences.

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 Water Act establishes that an appeal of an order may be made to the Environmental Appeal Board and that an appeal from an award made on arbitration lies to the Court of Appeal. It states that a decision regarding the acceptance of an application, for example, may not be appealed.

The Environmental Appeal Board Procedure Regulation applies to all appeals to the board and includes practices and procedures.

 
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