Political parties respond on water issues

In May, 2018, the Ontario Municipal Water Association sent emails to all four main political parties in the upcoming provincial election.  We asked them to answer several questions related to their party’s policies regarding water and infrastructure, in order to better educate our members for the election.

Of the four parties, the Green Party, the Liberals and the NDP acknowledged our request. The Progressive Conservatives did not. However, only the Green Party and NDP responded with answers. Their replies are linked to PDF files, below.

Here is what the OMWA asked:

  1. Does your party have a policy for water management in Ontario, and if so can you please provide a copy of your statement to share with our members.
  2. Does your party policy include provisions for:
    • Stormwater management?
    • Backflow prevention?
    • Managing Lead levels in drinking water?
    • Microplastics in water and the environment?
    • Climate change mitigation?
    • Controlling Inflow & Infiltration to reduce wastewater spills & bypassing?
    • First Nations’ water issues?
  3. Does your party have plans for helping Ontario municipal water suppliers sustainably maintain and improve their water infrastructure? If so, please provide your policy statements to share with our members.

Answers as provided follow.
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Asset Management – Is It Really Your Saviour?

Andrew HenryBy Andrew Henry
Past President, OMWA

I’m going to make a shocking statement. Many of you might get offended, downright shocked, or possibly even think I’ve gone completely insane. Nonetheless, I’m going to risk it because it needs to be said…

The fact that you have an Asset Management Plan will not solve your infrastructure problems.

There it is. I’ve said it. But before you call to have me committed to a psychiatric institution, please let me explain.

Whether you’re operating a water or wastewater utility, or a municipality with a mesh of services and responsibilities, an asset management plan is a ‘road map’ of sorts. It should distill your policies to fundamental principles with regard to how you intend to manage your assets; how you maintain them, how you reinvest in them, and how you will eventually replace them. It should set out a planned and systemic approach to effective and efficient asset utilization, ensuring their entire lifecycle is maximized to the extent that is reasonably practical.

But here’s the rub: this is only one element of the solution, and if this is the only piece that you’re focused on then it will never be the be-all and end-all that you were made to believe it is. It is not The Saviour of our communities. It cannot slay that dragon… at least not alone.

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Developing and writing effective standard operating procedures

Part one: About SOPs

Ken MacDonnellBy Ken MacDonnell, P. Eng.
Professor, Fleming College

Over the years, and especially since the Walkerton tragedy, there has been a general shift for municipalities and other public entities to operate with a clear set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Whether it be as a requirement to conform to DWQMS, a compliance requirement for your ECA, the result from a visit from a Ministry of Labour / Ministry of Environment and Climate Change inspector, or you were ahead of the curve and understood that SOPs were a part of a Best Management Practice, the fact is that SOPs are here to stay.

The most critical component in the above title is the development and writing of effective SOPs. In order for SOPs to be effective they should:

  • Clearly define the purpose of the SOP (i.e. why is the task required);
  • Identify all tools and equipment required to perform the SOP;
  • Provide easy and concise instructions to complete the task.

Finally, the SOP must take into consideration and identify all possible hazards and safety precautions required to complete the tasks associated with the SOP safely.

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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.

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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”

Stormwater Fees: Is Your Municipality Ready?

StormwaterNew technologies, new rules and new practices in stormwater management are spurring changes in infrastructure, urban design and development.

In part, these are spurred by climate change – heavy rainfalls are becoming more frequent in many areas – and in part by growth and development that creates more runoff. Existing infrastructure is often hard-pressed to cope with the increase.

However, those changes are seldom matched by increases in funding or capital.

While most Canadian municipalities fund their stormwater facilities through property taxes, many are turning to additional stormwater fees to help pay for rising infrastructure and operational costs.

In a report to the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (1), consultants Zizzo Allan wrote:

Recent flooding events in Ontario have brought significant attention to stormwater management. As flooding-related damage increases, interest in the legal liability associated with flooding and other stormwater events has grown as well. In light of predictions that climate change will make extreme weather events more frequent and intense, physical damage and liability concerns may prompt municipalities to ask whether, and to what extent, they should adapt their stormwater management policies and infrastructure.

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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.”

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