ARCHIVED - Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Sources of Drinking Water: Summary of Yukon'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 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:

The Waters Act (SY 2003, c19) ensures that no person deposits waste in any waters.

The Drinking Water Regulation allows a medical officer of health to prepare an assessment and response plan for the water resource in regards to the public drinking water system. It prohibits anyone from introducing any harmful substance into a large public drinking water system or its watershed, ensures that protections exist for drinking water coming from a groundwater source and that wells are capped properly.

The Regulations Respecting Public Health provide for a number of source water protections. The regulations require all wells to be located at least 100 feet from sources of pollution and pipes to be covered and protected.

The Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation requires that any septic or sewage holding tank be located at least 15 m from any potable water source and that no sewage disposal system be within 60 m of any community well.

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:

The Waters Act prescribes the standards for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of works related to the use of waters or the deposit of waste. It is the Yukon Water Board that operates under the authority of the Yukon Government and issues permits for wastewater systems. 

The Drinking Water Regulation provides requirements and rules with respect to the location, design, alteration, modification, and construction of drinking water and wastewater systems.

The Regulations Respecting Public Health ensures that municipalities maintain wells and other sources of water for the use of inhabitants and are responsible for the safety of this water supply.

The Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation provides requirements and rules with respect to the location, repair, and construction of sewage disposal systems. A written permit from a health officer must be obtained before any sewage disposal system is connected to an existing system.

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:

Under the Drinking Water Regulation, the owner of a water delivery truck is responsible for safe transportation of water and shall ensure that an assessment for each delivery truck is prepared by an independent professional engineer prior to the receipt of a permit to operate.

The Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation covers transportation and final disposal of sewage. The regulation does not allow for the transport of more than 20,000 liters of sewage per month and requires that any tank used to hold petroleum products be cleaned before being used to hold sewage.

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:

The Drinking Water Regulation states that an owner of a large public drinking water system must ensure that the operator holds a valid operator certification equivalent or greater to the classification of the water system. An owner of a trucked water distribution system shall ensure that the operator holds a valid operator certification for the bulk delivery of drinking water.

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:

The Waters Act requires that any waste produced be disposed of and treated without compromising the water quality standards.

The Drinking Water Regulation requires that water from a drinking water source must meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Before the water enters a water tank of a trucked distribution system, it must be chlorinated and its microbiological, chemical and physical characteristics must not exceed the acceptable concentration for any health-related parameter set out in the Guidelines.

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:

The Waters Act mandates the Commissioner in Executive Council with the responsibility to make regulations related to taking of representative samples of waters or waste.

The Drinking Water Regulation requires that owners of large drinking water systems with a piped distribution system test for free chlorine residual concentration and that drinking water from such a system be monitored for bacteriological, general chemical and physical quality, etc. Upon collection of samples, samples must be stored according to the instructions from the laboratory that performs the analysis and collected according to the sampling requirements. The Drinking Water Regulation states that, before a water delivery truck begins distributing water, water samples must be tested and approval to operate from a health officer must be received.

The Regulations Respecting Public Health provides that any source of water supply intended for human consumption shall be subject to inspection and testing by a medical officer of health.

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:

The Drinking Water Regulation requires the owner to submit an annual report to Environmental Health Services. A similar report must also be submitted to Environmental Health Services upon the receipt of an original laboratory report. Records must be available to health officers on request. For trucked distribution system, records relating to sampling and testing must be retained for at least six years.

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

Rationale:

The Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation prohibits the disposal of untreated sewage or sewage effluent on to the ground surface, directly into a ditch, lake, river, channel, watercourse, stream, or other body of water. It requires any tank used to hold petroleum products to be flushed and cleaned before being used to hold sewage. A health officer must approve transportation of sewage removed from a septic tank, sewage holding tank, soil absorption system or contained privy, to a final disposal site.

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:

The Waters Act empowers an inspector to direct any person in charge of a drinking water supply system to cease an activity or to remedy its adverse effects in the case of license contravention or an observed risk of harm to the environment.

The Drinking Water Regulation requires that a drinking water supply system owner notify a health officer immediately of any potential contamination or equipment failure. The regulation allows the health officer to issue a boil water order to the owner of a large public drinking water system if he/she deems it necessary. The health officer may rescind such order when appropriate. Written response and contingency plans are a requirement for all owners under this regulation.

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 and Safety Act gives health officers the right to search a place on reasonable grounds, to enter and inspect any public premises used in connection with the business of preparing food, goods, or services to be sold to the public, to require the person in breach of an order to remedy the breach within a pre-stated period, to call to their assistance any peace officer they think fit, and authorize other persons to exercise any of their powers or perform any of their duties on their behalf and under their supervision in order to respond effectively in an emergency.

The Waters Act prohibits any kind of obstruction or interference with the work of an inspector and imposes fines associated with the failure to comply with the direction of an inspector.

The Drinking Water Regulation enables health officers to undertake appropriate corrective measures for large public drinking water system if it is deemed to present a health and safety risk for users. Measures include requesting any documentation, having the owner conduct inspections, assessments, sampling or testing, or ordering a closure of a public drinking water system. Health officers may rescind a closure order, if it determined that the system does not present a health and safety risk to users. In addition, a health officer may amend, revoke or suspend a permit to operate a trucked distribution system.

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 Waters Act states that an appeal lies from a decision or order of the Board to the Supreme Court on a question of law or a question of jurisdiction, on leave being obtained from that Court on application made within forty-five days after the making of that decision or order or within such further time as that Court, or a judge of it, under special circumstances allows. No appeal lies after leave unless the notice of appeal is filed in the Supreme Court within sixty days after the making of the order granting leave to appeal.

 
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