OMWA issues statement on lead

Consultation on Lead in Drinking Water and Amendments to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality

Andrew Henryby Andrew Henry,
President, OMWA

The Ontario Municipal Water Association continues to strive to be The Voice of Ontario’s Public Water Authorities, representing municipalities and municipally-owned water systems across Ontario. On behalf of our municipal members, we look to develop and implement long-term drinking water, wastewater and storm water policies and programs for the benefit of the greater public, strive to ensure sustainable water-related utilities in Ontario, and address our most-pressing issues that we face in the water resource sector.

The OMWA has reviewed Health Canada’s consultation document with regard to lead in drinking water. The Association agrees with the science and reasoning behind the proposed changes in the maximum allowable concentration of lead in drinking water from 0.010 mg/L (10 µg/L) to 0.005 mg/L (5 µg/L) but has some concerns with regard to the overall program application and potential liabilities for water utilities in Ontario.

Continue reading “OMWA issues statement on lead”

An interview with Jim Smith, ODWAC

OMWA interviews Jim Smith, chair of the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC)

Jim Smith, ODWACWhat is the mandate and role of the ODWAC?
The broad mandate of the Council is to provide advice and make recommendations to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change on drinking water quality and testing standards, as well as other drinking water matters deemed appropriate to merit the attention of the Minister.

Can you give us a brief history?
On May 23, 2002, Justice O’Connor, in the Part Two Report of the Walkerton Inquiry, recommended the establishment on an “Advisory Council on Standards” for drinking water, as well as making five specific recommendations with respect to the Council.

On May 12, 2004, The Minister of the Environment announced the establishment of the Ontario
Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC), known formally as the “Advisory Council on Drinking-Water Quality and Testing Standards” in the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002.

Enabled under Section 4 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, the Council is “to consider issues relating to standards for drinking-water quality and testing and to make recommendations to the Minister” of the Environment, which are to be “taken into consideration in establishing and revising standards under this Act for drinking-water quality and testing.”

Continue reading “An interview with Jim Smith, ODWAC”

The Standard of Care Explained

What is the Standard of Care?

Brian JobbBy Brian Jobb,
Manager, Training Institute
Walkerton Clean Water Centre

The Statutory Standard of Care is Section 19 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 2002. The Standard of Care, which came into effect on December 31, 2012, expressly extends legal responsibility to people with decision-making authority over municipal drinking water systems. It requires that they exercise the level of care, diligence and skill with regard to a municipal drinking water system that a reasonably prudent person would be expected to exercise in a similar situation. It is also expected that they exercise this due diligence honestly, competently and with integrity.

The Standard of Care legislation applies to municipal councils and management, but does not apply directly to certified drinking water operators.

Standard of Care cardGiven the importance of effectively reaching the target group of decision-makers, special training and guidance material was deemed to be necessary. In 2009, The Ministry of Environment assembled an Advisory Group which consisted of mayors and  councillors representing large, medium and small systems, OMWA, OWWA, AMO, MOE and WCWC Staff. A guidebook was developed which was adapted from material in the Ontario Municipal Water Association’s 2004 handbook “Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Responsibilities”.

In addition, a specific training course was developed; the advisory group felt this should be a plain-language, high-level, instructor-led, short course. Material for this training course was adapted from the OMWA Handbook, publications by Dr. Steve Hrudey and information from several Walkerton Clean Water Centre training courses.

(Click on the image to download the PDF of the OMWA rack card)

The first Standard of Care course was delivered in early 2011 and since then it has been delivered to over 2,500 participants at over 160 sessions held throughout Ontario. The majority of training has been delivered on-site at the location of the client municipality. Continue reading “The Standard of Care Explained”

Framing the Fluoride Debate

Ever since it was first proposed for use in municipal water systems in the 1930s (1), fluoride use has been the centre of a highly polarized and often very emotional debate between opponents and proponents.

In 1945, Brantford was the first Canadian municipality to add fluoride to its drinking water. Municipal usage grew until 2009, when Health Canada estimated about 45 per cent of the country’s population was drinking fluoridated water. Since then, popular movements to remove fluoride have reduced that to about 37 per cent (2).

Still, in Ontario the percentage of the population drinking fluoridated water remains above 75 per cent. (3)

While guidelines for fluoride were created by both federal and provincial governments, until recently, in Ontario it was left to the individual municipality to decide its use. Then, in early October, the Ontario Legislature passed a private member’s bill that bans municipalities from removing fluoride from their water supplies. That might signal a future change in provincial policies and legislation.

Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney’s 2016 motion is non-binding, but it opened the debate again (4). And it is one the Ontario Municipal Water Association believes should be discussed in context with municipal issues and concerns and with full consultation with its members.

“We’re not going to debate the science,” Andrew Henry, president of OMWA, said at a recent meeting of the board of directors where the issue was a hot topic of discussion. “That’s not our business. Our role is policy, politics and governance.”

Continue reading “Framing the Fluoride Debate”