ARCHIVED - Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Sources of Drinking Water: Summary of Northwest Territories' 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 territorial 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. 

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Water Supply Systems Regulation states that an operator or prospective operator seeking the Chief Public Health Officer's approval of a water source must provide satisfactory evidence that the quantity of water available is adequate to supply the water demand (including the firefighting demands of the users of the water system, and a reasonable surplus anticipated growth) and it is practicable to convert it to drinking water.

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. 

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Public Health Act authorizes the Chief Public Health Officer to approve water sources for water supply systems.

Public Sewerage Systems Regulation detail design requirements for sewers and sewer pumping stations, including that the design must be adequate to ensure that the gathering, treatment, and disposal of sewage does not create a health hazard. 

Water Supply Systems Regulation requires that a professional engineer certifies any construction, alteration, or modification of a water supply system, and authorizes the Chief Public Health Officer to approve the operation of a water supply system before operation begins.

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. 

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Water Supply Systems Regulation regulates the distribution and storage of water by truck and by pipe, including the source of the drinking water, design of the truck equipment, and the operation and maintenance of the trucks and other equipment.

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.

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Water Supply Systems Regulation requires that water supply systems are to be operated by a person with the proper certifications, in accordance with the GNWT "Water and Wastewater Operator Certification Guidelines".The Water Supply Systems Regulation gives the Chief Public Health Officer the authority to approve the daily operation, control and management of a water supply system by a foreperson who does not have the proper certification if:

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).

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Water Supply Systems Regulation states that the standards governing the sampling, testing, treatment and quality of water are set out in the schedule of this RegulationFootnote 1, including the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, published by the Health Canada, which are officially adopted under this regulation, and the standard operating procedures for the sampling testing, treatment and quality of water approved by the Chief Public Health Officer.

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).

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Water Supply System Regulation states that the standards governing the sampling, testing, treatment and quality of water are set out in the schedule of this Regulation, including the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, published by Health Canada, which are officially adopted under this regulation, and the standard operating procedures for the sampling testing, treatment and quality of water approved by the Chief Public Health Officer.

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.

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Water Supply System Regulation states that operators, water supply forepersons and water supply workers must maintain records and comply with the reporting requirements in the Public Health Act and the regulation and the direction of the Public Health Officer.

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. 

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

To be confirmed in consultation with the Territorial government.

Rationale:

Not yet identified within the Territories’ Act and regulations

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.

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

Public Health Act authorizes the Chief Public Health Officer to issue any advisory, bulletin or warning that is considered necessary in respect of drinking water, a water source, or a water supply system.

Water Supply System Regulation (NWT Reg 108-2009) states that the Chief Health Officer may order the closure or cessation of operations of a water supply system.

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.

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Public Health Act authorizes the Minister of Health and Social Services to appoint the Chief Public Health Officer, and describes the duty and powers of the Chief Health Officer.  It details the duties of public health officers, who have the same authority as peace officers.

Public Sewerage Systems Regulation authorizes the Chief Public Health Inspector to inspect public sewerage systems and the authority to issue direction regarding non-compliance.

The Water Supply System Regulations state the duty to comply with the regulation for water supply system operators.  The regulations do not apply to a water supply system that serves five or fewer households.

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.

Territorial Acts and Regulations under Consideration

Rationale:

The Public Health Act states that health hazard orders may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Public Sewerage Systems Regulation states that and operator may appeal to the Minister of Health and Social Services after an order to close a public sewerage system is handed.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Regarding the Schedule within Water Supply System Regulation (NWT Reg 108-2009): "The summary table set out in the Schedule to these regulations may be viewed by appointment at the office of the Registrar of Regulations located on 4th Floor of the Courthouse, Legislation Division, Yellowknife (867) 873-7462."

Return to first footnote 1 referrer

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