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This website will change as a result of the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Consult the new Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada home page or the new Indigenous Services Canada home page.
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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.
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.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act allows for Drinking Water Safety Orders to be directed to any person to stop any activity, or remove or remediate any contaminant or other material that is adversely affecting or may adversely affect the source of water for a water system. The Act requires an assessment of the water system infrastructure and source to be completed every five years. The Act also allows for the development of regulations relating to the protection of drinking water sources but regulations have not yet been developed in this regard. The Drinking Water Safety Regulation provides additional details on orders and assessments.
The Ground Water and Water Well Act prohibits the deposit of any pollutant near a well that may contaminate the water in the well or ground water in its area.
The Water Protection Act provides for the protection of water resources and aquatic ecosystems to ensure the high quality of drinking water sources. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate any provincial area as a water quality management zone. Officers may inspect dwellings and other premises to determine compliance with the Act.
The Protection of Water Sources Regulation prohibits any person from contaminating an underground water supply via discharge of any sewage, liquid waste, or filth into wells. Subsequently, in case of such contamination, the person responsible must desist from such practice and remove all damaging materials.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act requires a permit to construct or alter a water system. The permit may contain terms and conditions that are considered necessary for the safety of the water supply.The Act requires a current operating licence to operate a water system. The licence is subject to terms and conditions, contains an expiry date and is binding on anyone purchasing or otherwise becomes owner of that water system. In addition, water treatment plants require permits to construct from the Office of Drinking Water.
The Environment Act is the main legislative tool for siting, construction, operation, monitoring, reporting, and decommissioning for wastewater treatment systems in Manitoba. The effluent produced by sewage treatment plants must not cause any nuisance or offence during periods of minimum flow of the river into which it is discharged. This is addressed during the environmental assessment and licensing process.
The Public Health Act mandates the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations respecting the construction and maintenance of sewerage and potable water systems.
Under The Water Resources Administration Act, the minister may approve operating guidelines for a water control work. In operating a water control work for which operating guidelines have been approved, the minister must have regard to, but is not bound by, the guidelines.
The Drinking Water Safety Regulation requires a design brief, project specification and a copy of the engineering design plans (or in the case of a semi-public water system a schematic drawing) be completed by a professional Engineer to be submitted with the permit application.
The Onsite Wastewater Management Systems Regulation consists of rules for the construction, location, expansion, and modification of onsite wastewater management systems.
The Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Regulation prohibits operation of a wastewater treatment facility unless it is registered with the Department of Environment and Energy. The Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Regulation requires the facility owners to apply for a facility re-categorization prior to its expansion or alteration.
Water Works, Sewerage and Sewage Disposal Regulation ensures that no one constructs or alters a common sewer, sewerage or sewage treatment system without a previously obtained certificate from the Director of the Environmental Approvals Branch, Conservation and Water Stewardship.
The Well Drilling Regulation addresses different aspects of licensing, well drilling, and safe well construction.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations respecting water used for bulk distribution for consumptive purposes and vehicles and containers used as bulk water haulers.
The Public Health Act requires that a certificate of approval be obtained prior to the construction of wastewater collection system.
The Onsite Wastewater Management Systems Regulation specifies the requirements related to the installation and use of a holding tank for collection of sewage or greywater from a building.
The Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Regulation classifies water distribution as well as wastewater collection facilities according to the number of people they serve.
The Water Supplies Regulation requires the approval of a medical officer of health to sell and haul water. The regulations also require drinking water in a public place be stored in covered containers.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act states no person shall operate a water system unless they hold a current operating licence.
The Drinking Water Safety Act allows the director to make an order to hire an operator to take control or manage a water system.
The Drinking Water Safety Regulation allows the director to suspend or cancel an operating licence if it is believed that the license was obtained by fraud, that its holder has violated the Act or has not complied with said order, or that the water system presents a threat to its users' health.
The Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Regulation addresses certification and operation licences requirements. The regulation prescribes the requirements associated with application for an operator's certificate, allows the director to refuse to issue a certificate to a person on substantial grounds, and requires that a person holding an operator's or conditional operator's certificate make an application to the director before the certificate expiry and pay the applicable fee in order to renew it.
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).
The Environment Act authorizes issuance of Environment Act Licences that set wastewater treatment standards for each wastewater treatment facility and are in accordance with the "Water Quality Standards Objectives and Guidelines" which are more stringent than the standards set out in the Wastewater System Effluent Regulations.
The Drinking Water Quality Standards Regulation requires public water suppliers to ensure that all water in the distribution system has less than one E. coli and less than one total coliform detectable per 100ml. Filtration and disinfection equipment must be in place in every system using surface water. The regulation also prescribes certain physical standards for public water systems. The Drinking Water Quality Standards Regulation specifies the bacteriological, chemical, physical, and radiological standards that the water supplied and distributed must meet and it requires that a water system using surface water as water supply source must have in place filtration and disinfection equipment and controls designed to ensure that all water entering the distribution system meets the listed microbial standards.
The Drinking Water Safety Regulation states that every public water supplier is to disinfect for the purpose of meeting the bacteriological and microbial standards for the water system and to ensure that when disinfecting a disinfectant residual is maintained.
The Water Supplies Regulation states that unless boiled, chlorinated, or otherwise disinfected to the satisfaction of the medical officer of health, all surface water is considered unsafe for domestic purposes.
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).
The Drinking Water Safety Act requires every public, semi-public and private water supplier to submit samples from the water system to a laboratory for bacteriological and other prescribed analyses. A water supplier must also test the disinfected water supply for disinfectant residuals before the water leaves the treatment plant.
The Environment Act authorizes issuance of Environment Act Licences that specify the monitoring, sampling, testing and reporting requirements applicable to wastewater. These requirements may include monitoring and testing influent, effluent, and/or receiving waterway(s).
The Drinking Water Safety Regulation requires that disinfected water be tested for disinfectant residuals daily before entering the distribution system. A water supplier may be asked to install disinfectant monitoring equipment. The Drinking Water Safety Regulation mandates every public and semi-public water supplier to collect samples of water from its water system and submit them to a laboratory for analysis. A director will only approve a testing facility when certain that its analysis of water samples in relation to specified parameters will be accurate.
The Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Regulation sets out the monitoring, sampling, and reporting requirements with regards to the responsibilities of wastewater treatment facilities' operators.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act asks that every public and semi-public water supplier conduct an assessment of the water system's infrastructure and its water source and provide the director with a written report of the assessment once every five years. In addition, every public and semi-public water supplier must retain written records in relation to the water system operation and sampling and provide periodic reports to the director or a drinking water officer.
The Environment Act authorizes issuance of licenses that specify the reporting requirements for wastewater treatment facilities.
The Drinking Water Safety Regulation obligates water suppliers to keep records of all tests they perform and to submit to the director results of analysis for a bacteriological standard, and for chemical, radiological, physical or microbial standard conducted by a laboratory.
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.
The Environment Act Licences for wastewater treatment facilities include requirements for handling and disposal of solid waste, sludge and bio-solids. The application of bio-solids to land requires an environment act licence.
The Classes of Development Regulation lists waste class developments for waste disposal, waste storage and treatment plants for the purposes of the Environment Act.
The Onsite Wastewater Management Systems Regulation prohibits anyone from draining or pumping sewage, greywater or wastewater effluent from any building except into an onsite wastewater management system or a common public sewer. Additionally, discharge of the contents of a holding tank may only be made into a public sewer, an approved facility or mobile pump-out equipment for ultimate disposal. Discharge of greywater from a building anywhere else other than a disposal field, holding tank, or other approved system is prohibited.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act allows the director, a medical or drinking water officer to make a drinking water safety order if risk to public health exists and such an order is necessary to prevent it. A person aware of a boil water advisory shall not provide to any other person a water for domestic purposes or food and beverage that contains such water. The Act authorizes any medical officer who believes there is an immediate health risk of persons to enter and inspect any place without a warrant and exercise any of his or her powers for the purpose of preventing or dealing with the risk.
Licences issued under the Environment Act for wastewater treatment facilities also specifically require immediate notification of a breakdown of the treatment facility or any exceedance of an effluent limit. Some licences specifically require notification of water treatment plant owners if there is a water intake downstream of a treated wastewater discharge.
The Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Regulation requires an owner of any facility to have a documented emergency response plan and comprehensive operations manuals for the facility and its systems as well as equipment to ensure adequate and efficient operation.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act considers a contravention of this Act an offence subject to penalties. Non-compliance with an order may result in the suspension of an operating licence by a medical officer. When required to determine compliance, medical officer may enter and inspect any place at any time.
The Environment Act permits the director to issue an environmental protection order if he/she deems it necessary. Non-compliance with an order, licence or permit issued by the minister, director, or environment officer constitutes an offence.
The Ground Water and Water Well Act states that non-compliance with this Act may result in licence or permit suspension by a department officer. Non-compliance constitutes and offence may result in an entry upon the land.
The Public Health Act permits a medical officer to make a health hazard order if he/she deems it necessary. When required to determine compliance with this Act, a medical officer may enter and inspect any place at any time. Contravention of this Act is an offence. The continuation of a contravention for more than one day is a separate offence.
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.
The Drinking Water Safety Act allows a person affected by a director's decision or an order, by written notice to the minister within 14 days, appeal the decision or order to the minister.
The Environment Act states that any person affected by any order of an environment officer may appeal to the director. Anyone affected by any decision, order, instruction, or directive of the director file may appeal in writing with the minister.
The Public Health Act allows a person subject to a health hazard order to appeal the order by filing an application with the court and to the person who made the order. Moreover, a person from whom a medical health officer seized anything deemed hazardous may file a notice of application with the court.
The Water Protection Act mandates a regulation that provides the right to apply for an order to provide a process for appealing, to the minister, a director's decision whether to issue an order and a provision, term or condition of an order.
The Water Rights Act allows for an appeal of an order or decision of the minister to the Municipal Board. If the appeal is successful the minister may enter into an agreement with the appellant to compensate him or her for any loss or damage that the appellant incurred as a result of the order or decision.