| May 26, 2005

Feature article, May 26, 2005

Feature article May 26, 2005

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Water regulations coming full circle

by Jeff Green

Long awaited alternatives to the controversial provincial water regulation, Reg. 170-03, will not be available until this fall, but the province has already announced that municipal halls, church halls, B&Bs and small rural restaurants will not be subject to Regulation 170-03 after all.

The Ministry of the Environment announced last week that it will be transferring responsibility for regulating these smaller water systems to the Ministry of Heath.

Public Health Units, who have a track record in testing small private and public water systems, will oversee the new regulations that are being developed.

If the proposed framework is approved by the Legislature, responsibility for five categories of systems could be transferred to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care as early as Fall of 2006, said a MoE press statement last week.


The press release further said that the new regulations would require only microbiological testing, cutting out the large expense of testing wells for dozens of chemical agents. As well, owners of these small water systems will not be required to install treatment equipment.

The new regulatory framework will be more stringent than current practices, however. No longer will the current practice of twice-annual bacterial testing be sufficient.

The new approach will implement a risk-based, site-specific approach for all drinking water systems serving non-residential and seasonal uses. Health units would evaluate risks at individual systems and develop a system-specific water protection plan to ensure compliance with provincial drinking water standards, an MoE background report says.

The new proposed framework will be released in the fall of this year. It is expected that it will require that Health Unit inspectors conduct a detailed initial assessment and inspection of each drinking water system, and periodic inspections thereafter, at a suggested cost to the water system owner of between $250 and $375 per year.

Between now and the Fall of 2006, when responsibility for certain water systems is transferred to the Ministry of Health, churches and motels will be required to submit samples for monthly biological testing, or else post signs saying the water has not been tested. Township Halls will be required to submit to water testing on a biweekly basis, or else post signs saying the water has not been tested. Ministry Official John Steele told the News that he expects this testing will be carried out by private accredited laboratories rather than the Public Health Units.

When contacted, one accredited lab said the cost of bacteriological testing for a single facility on a biweekly or monthly basis would be between $20 and $30 per test. The price could be decreased if a few facilities, such as, for example, a group of churches, got together to enter into a single water testing contract.

It is not yet known if Public Health Units will take on the water testing once new regulations are in place next year.

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