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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Retirement of Nick Benkovich from the OMWA board

OMWA president announces retirement of Nick Benkovich, long-time member, from the OMWA board

Long-serving board member, Nick Benkovich, Director of Water & Wastewater Services for the City of Greater Sudbury, retired from his job at the end of December, 2017. He is also leaving the Ontario Municipal Water Association board of directors after more than a decade of service to the greater water community in this province.

OMWA president, Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan, commented on his leaving:

“It is with bittersweet emotion and homage that I write this message. Bittersweet because it has been such a privilege to work with Nick, and he will be missed immensely, but pleased that he is opening a new chapter in his life and we wish him many new amazing adventures.
“In 2004 Nick Benkovich joined the OMWA Board and became a true champion and voice for our northern water connection. From our first board meeting it was quite apparent that Nick had a deep passion for the north and our water.
“Nick has represented the OMWA in the highest of standards throughout his 13 years on the board and we have all benefitted from his integrity, his principles and his devotion.
“On behalf of the board, it has been a true honour to have had your leadership at the table, you have left your thumbprint on us and the north. We wish you all the best in this next chapter of your life, and hopefully our paths with cross again in the near future.
“With heartfelt sincerity,
Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan, President OMWA”

Background:

Sudbury-born Nick Benkovich holds an Honors Bachelor of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo (BES) as well as a Graduate Diploma in Public Administration from Laurentian University. He has been employed in the water /wastewater sector for more than 35 years. He wrote that he, “…volunteered for OMWA because I wanted to contribute to the water sector in Ontario beyond my home organization. I hope to see OMWA continue to grow toward fulfilling its “One Water” mandate as defined in the current strategic plan for the organization.”

Nick consider himself “an outdoors person” and enjoys a wide variety of activities such as running, hiking, kayaking, fishing, & hunting.

Nick was instrumental in the development of Sudbury’s Backflow Prevention By-Law, Preventative Plumbing Subsidy Program, Quality Management System, to name only a few. Nick played a key role in implementing the changes required by the Source Water Protection Act, after the Walkerton tragedy and has provided Standard of Care Training to Sudbury city staff.

He has been involved with broader change initiatives, including working with the MOECC in the development of the System-Wide ECA program and involving the City of Greater Sudbury with the NWWBI initiative.

Nick is currently a member of the Local Source Water Protection Committee and is the City’s Risk Management Official, as required by the Source Water Protection Act.

Nick’s innovative vision allowed him to make changes across the city’s water / wastewater division with a mission to improve process, people, technology and data. These efforts included mobilizing field crews with tablets and mobile GIS, implementing Cityworks asset management and leading edge SCADA infrastructure.

Nick was also involved with the following committees:

  • RPWCO (Regional Public Work Commissioners of Ontario) – subcommittee
  • ODWAC (Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council) – member
  • NEOWWC (Northeastern Ontario Water Works Conference) – served as president for multiple terms
  • Water / Wastewater Operator Certification Working Group
  • Helping to develop ORO / OIC Guidelines