On June 1, 2003 selected sections of the Safe Drinking Water Act came into force with the remaining sections of the act to be proclaimed at a later unspecified date. A number of regulations have since been proclaimed under the Safe DrinkingWater Act. O. Reg. 170/03 was primarily a consolidation of previous acts and regulations, but included some enhancements. Under a new regulation, certain drinking water systems have been removed from O. Reg. 170/03 and are now regulated by O. Reg. 252/05.
Ontario Drinking Water Regulations were amended in June 2006 to include changes to microbiological testing requirements, frequency of chemical analyses, annual report requirements and scheduling changes.
The Safe Drinking Water Act introduced a statutory standard of care which means that Councillors and senior staff will have a duty to operate the Town's municipal drinking water systems with the diligence and skill of a "reasonably prudent person" in similar circumstances and it is an offence not to exercise this standard of care. This means that there is a "due diligence" defence available in which an accused would have to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to fulfill their obligations.
Municipal Drinking Water License Program under the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard
The Ministry of the Environment has released the Guidance Documents related to all licensing requirements related to the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard, which is due to be implemented in early 2007. The required components for municipal drinking water systems are as follows:
Permit(s) to take water
Permit(s) for Drinking Water System (comparable to current Certificates of Approval)
Approved Operational Plan(s)
Approved Financial Plan(s) (this would be based on a full cost recovery basis in accordance with the provisions of the proposed Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act)
Accreditation of Operating Authorities
All of the above components of the system need to be in place in order for the Operating Authorities to operate their systems, as shown below.
The Beyond Compliance Operating System will be used to ensure the division meets the requirements of the above mentioned proposed Drinking Water Quality Management Standard licensing. The Compliance Support Group has already taken steps to ensure that the main elements of the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard framework are already being implemented across the division.
It is clear that the new licensing process will require greater resources dedicated to tracking compliance-related issues to mitigate the liability associated with any failure, administrative or otherwise, to fulfill all obligations under the Safe Water Drinking Act. Similarly, the proposed Drinking Water Quality Management Standard requires a third party audit for each water system under each owner. Potentially this could lead to several thousand dollars per audit, and should be considered in budgetary deliberations. Also, there will be requirements of divisional staff to dedicate time to internal audits in preparation for external audits.
The Drinking Water Quality Management Standard states the operating authority of water facilities must meet requirements to obtain a Ministry of the Environment license.
Council's due diligence resides in ensuring that appropriate resources are made available to staff in order for the licensing work to take place.
The new components include Approved Operational Plans, which the Water and Wastewater Division has already begun implementing and the Third Party Accreditation Audits per system. The cost per audit can be up to a few thousand dollars, depending on the size and complexity of the system, and should be considered in budgetary deliberations.
Divisional staff involvement in preparetory work will involve all licensing steps as well as taking party in internal audits and peer audits prior to their party audits. The details of third party audit findings will be required to be shared by the Accreditation Body with the Ministry of the Environment, Owner and Operating Authority of each system. A Ministry of the Environment inspector entering any of our Town's premises could potentiall ask for audit reports.
By monitoring legislative changes and communicating those changes we will ensure the division stays ahead of regulatory requirements while providing excellent public service. This will ensure that the "due diligence" requirement for all pertinent legislation is present in the division.
Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act
In December 2001, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) introduced Bill 155, and Act respecting the cost of water and wastewater services, otherwise known as the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act (the "Act"). The Bill was reintroduced as Bill 175 in September 2002 under the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and received Royal Assent on December 13, 2002. The Province of Ontario has identified that the purpose of the Act is to ensure that Ontario water and wastewater systems generate sufficient revenue to fully recover all of the long-term operating and capital costs required to operate on a truly self-sustaining basis.
Under Bill 175, Ontario municipalities will be required to provide:
A full cost report for both their water and wastewater operations, including information on the infrastructure and investment needed to provide water and wastewater services, the full cost of providing those services, and the revenue obtained to provide those services; and
A cost recovery plan describing how the municipality intends ot pay for the "full cost" of providing the services.
In addition, the Bill will require municipalities to establish and maintain a dedicated reserve account for their water and wastewater operations so that cost recovery plan revenues are segregated from the municipality's general revenues.