President’s message about COVID-19

OMWA president, Mike MortimerFirst and foremost, I hope this message finds everyone healthy and spending quality time with loved ones during the uncertain period ahead. In times like this, it is also important to remember those less fortunate to help them out when we can, and when it is safe to do so.

These are some of the most challenging times we have faced collectively as a country, province, and municipality. There is uncertainty over day-to-day life, growing concern for our elderly and medically-vulnerable citizens, and anxiety over our well-being and the economy consume our thoughts. Whether you are a small business owner, a banker, or a restaurateur, there are varying perspectives of what this is doing to everyday life. It is an extremely fluid environment that we are all living and adapting to daily.

Water and wastewater professionals are no different.

The world of water and wastewater is unique in the sense that we are not deemed an essential service but yet we are absolutely necessary to ensure the continued public health of our communities. We are not able to just pack up our belongings and go home; we are not able to leave a water main break or a blocked sewer for the next week; we are not able to ignore a low-chlorine residual alarm or a high-level alarm at a sewage pumping station; we are not able to just stop sampling when our normal testing locations have been closed because of this pandemic.

And we don’t want to go home. Water and wastewater professionals are extremely dedicated individuals, committed to ensuring the provision of safe drinking water and the environmentally-sound conveyance of wastewater. There has been no threat to either during this pandemic, and for that we should be extremely grateful, but this is also different for those of us who do this work day-to-day. The threat is not a low-chlorine residual or a looming summer storm, but a threat we have little to no control over. And the question lingers: What if our workforce is impacted?
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President’s New Year’s Message

Mike Mortimer, OMWA presidentAs we close the door on 2019, the OMWA can look back on a year full of challenges and changes but with this, also comes new opportunities.

At the most recent AGM, in December, the OMWA underwent a self-refection of sorts. As the water, stormwater and wastewater industry landscape continues to evolve, it was imperative that the OMWA reflect on our mission statement, our mandates, and why we do what we do. From this strategic planning review arose many new ideas and exciting potential. Details on this session will be posted in early 2020!

But let’s be clear on one thing: the main purpose of the OMWA has always been to advocate on behalf of our members, to work with the province’s MECP on the policies, procedures, and governance issues that directly impact our member municipalities and our First Nations. This will never change, and as the strategic planning session showed us, it is imperative we continue to provide this foundation for public water authorities across the province.

The session also was a great reminder and confirmation that the OMWA is committed to continuing to be the voice for public water authorities. In an ever-evolving industry, we are dedicated to delivering on this mandate, to be an influential part of the dialogue on industry challenges, and to continue to be involved in the conversation for the overall collaborative effort that is required as we move forward.

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Message from outgoing OMWA president, Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan

Message from outgoing OMWA president, Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan

The past 21 years, participating on the Ontario Municipal Water Association have been an immense honour and perhaps one of the most consequential chapters of my career life.

From the deregulation of Ontario Hydro, the dissemination of most municipal Public Utility Commissions across Ontario, municipal amalgamations, the Walkerton tragedy and its subsequent inquiry, the inception of the Clean Water Act, Drinking Water Source Protection, six municipal and provincial elections, and seven federal elections, I have seen one constant that keeps rising to the forefront: partnerships. Collaboration and working together towards common goals provide focused, high-quality outcomes.

The OMWA has worked in partnership with many water-related associations and groups, including the Ontario Water Works Association, Ontario Water Equipment Association, Water Environmental Association Ontario, Association of Municipalities of Ontario, The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, and WaterTap, to name a few. Such collaborative efforts have made us all more aware and successful in addressing the “One Water” concept.

The OMWA embraces and endorses the belief that, “All water and water issues are related.” We believe that working together with our partners we will all excel and succeed for the betterment of the entire province.

It is with confidence that I am handing the torch to our incoming President, Mike Mortimer. Mike has served two years on the OMWA board as a director. He brings to the table both a high involvement and passion for water and the environment in our province.

Mike is a dedicated, astute leader and I know the OMWA will excel under his direction. The OMWA Board of Directors has immense dedication and understanding for our water and municipal issues. We are fortunate to have Mike as the new incoming President

Congratulations to Mike and the OMWA 2019 Board of Directors,

Best Regards in water,
Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan
Deputy Mayor, Trent Hills

OMWA elects new president, executive, at AGM

OMWA elects new president, executive, at AGM

Mike Mortimer, OMWA presidentAt its AGM in Toronto last week, the Ontario Municipal Water Association elected Mike Mortimer, Manager of Environmental Services for the City of Stratford, as its new president.

“I am excited to be able to take on the role as President of the OMWA and am committed to leading the organization and carrying on the dedicated efforts of past presidents,” Mortimer said. “As the water and wastewater industry landscape continues to evolve, it is imperative that the OMWA continuously reflects on our mission statement, our mandates and why we do what we do. Our main purpose has always been to advocate on behalf of our municipal members, to work with the province’s MECP on the policies, procedures, and governance issues that directly impact our members municipalities and our First Nations.“

Mortimer added, “I am committed, through increased engagement from our members combined with continued collaborative efforts with other stakeholders, to lead the OMWA into the next decade and to continue to fulfil this purpose.”

Also elected to the board executive were Mark Howson, of Sault Ste. Marie Public Utilities, as first vice-president, and Peter Chilibeck, of Lakefront Utility Services Inc., returns as board chair. OMWA will be recruiting new board members to replace those retiring, in early 2020.

Outgoing president, Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan, congratulated the new board of directors and their choice, saying, “Mike is a dedicated, astute leader and I know the OMWA will excel under his direction. The OMWA Board of Directors has immense dedication and understanding for our water and municipal issues. We are fortunate to have Mike as the new incoming President.”

At the meeting, the board also engaged in a strategic planning workshop, facilitated by former municipal councillor and marketing director, Kevin Lloyd. The board is preparing an updated strategic plan for 2020, which will be posted on the OMWA website early next year.

For a PDF version of this announcement, with Mike Mortimer’s CV, click here.

President’s message, winter 2018

Fake news and water governance

It may be the norm for election campaigns at every level for candidates or their followers to stretch the truth, but in the last few years, this has become dangerously exaggerated. Especially on social media, fake news or ‘alternate facts’ spread very rapidly, leaving voters confused as to what the truth is about with any issue.

When it comes to water governance, that’s not simply inconvenient: it can be dangerous and life-threatening. And for elected officials who have come to office not knowing or understanding the facts about their water services and safety, it can lead to bad policy decisions and personal liability.

For elected officials, being fully educated in the responsibilities and requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act (2002) is crucial to avoiding not simply problems, but severe penalties for failure to do their due diligence as required by provincial law. And under the Standard of Care in the Act, elected officials are personally responsible for their municipality’s water.
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OMWA welcomes new board members

Following its AGM in Barrie this month, the Ontario Municipal Water Association announced two new members have joined its board of directors: Bonnie Clark and Michael Mortimer.

“We are honoured and pleased to welcome our new members,” said OMWA president, Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan. “We always appreciate getting fresh perspectives and new ideas about municipal water systems. Everyone in the association benefits from the collective experience and high calibre of expertise the board brings.”

Bonnie Clark joins as a Political Director. She is a council member for the Otonabee South Monaghan municipality and a retired nurse (R.N.). She also sits on the Trent Conservation Coalition Source Protection Committee.

“Municipal experience would be a great starting point and give you a solid knowledge base to choose the direction and path you would like to go down,” she told the OMWA. “The need for safe water will always be there.”

Bonnie would like to see the organization grow its representation from our First Nations Communities. She says she appreciates the opportunity to network with peers, share challenges and ensure our communities’ water is safe.

Michael Mortimer joins as a Technical Director. He is currently Manager of Environmental Services for the City of Stratford.

Michael began his career as a water and wastewater treatment operator with the District of Muskoka in 2002 before taking roles at the Region of Waterloo and City of Waterloo. He became Manager of Environmental Services at the City of Stratford in May of 2015.

Michael is currently on the Walkerton Clean Water Center Training Advisory Committee and is the municipal representative for Stratford, St Mary’s, Perth and Huron Counties on the Thames Sydenham and Region Source Protection Committee.

In a statement to the board, he said, “I am very excited to be joining the OMWA in a Director role where I hope to be able to contribute in a meaningful way to the ever-adapting policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks of water and wastewater.”

The Ontario Municipal Water Association’s mission is to act as the voice of Ontario’s public water supply authorities and their customers on policy, legislative and regulatory issues related to the provision of safe and reliable public water supply in Ontario. We are a unique organization in that our focus is upon the management and administration of public drinking water, stormwater and wastewater. Our membership is made up of public water supply authorities. Our directors are either municipal officials or senior water supply managers.

Nick Benkovich given George Warren Fuller Award

Niagara Falls, ON, May 1, 2018: Nick Benkovich was named as the winner of the George Warren Fuller award, presented by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) at Ontario’s Water Convention, in Niagara Falls, today.

George Warren Fuller Awards are presented annually by the American Water Works Association to the sections’ respective selected members for their distinguished service to the water supply field in commemoration of the sound engineering skill, the brilliant diplomatic talent, and the constructive leadership which characterized the life of George Warren Fuller. The recipients of the George Warren Fuller Awards are selected by the individual sections of the Association from among their own members to recognize publicly the contribution toward the advancement of water works practice.

Sudbury-born Nick Benkovich retired from his long-time position as Director of Water & Wastewater Services for the City of Greater Sudbury at the end of December, 2017. He also stepped down from his position as director on the Ontario Municipal Water Association board at that time. He had been on the board since 2004, and served as its president in 2008.
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