Media Release: CELA Urges Eves Government to Amend Deficient Drinking Water Bills

Media Release

The Canadian Environmental Law Association (“CELA”) is calling upon the Eves Government to substantially strengthen and improve two key drinking water bills before they are enacted into law.

On Wednesday, November 27th, CELA lawyers will be presenting proposed changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act (Bill 195) and the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act (Bill 175) to the Standing Committee on General Government. CELA’s presentation to the Standing Committee is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. in Committee Room 1 at the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park.

SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT (BILL 195) “The proposed Safe Drinking Water Act is seriously deficient,” stated CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren. “As drafted, this Act will not prevent a recurrence of the Walkerton Tragedy, nor does it adequately address the recommendations of Commissioner O’Connor.”Among other things, CELA is concerned that the proposed Safe Drinking Water Act:

  • fails to address the paramount issue of source protection and watershed planning;
  • fails to fully entrench community “right-to-know” principles;
  • fails to ensure meaningful public participation in standard-setting and decision-making under the Act;
  • fails to include a procedure for citizens to require an investigation of suspected drinking water offences; and
  • fails to prohibit the transfer of ownership of municipal drinking water systems to private companies.

“The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed that the proposed Act is the ‘toughest’ drinking water law in the world,” noted Mr. Lindgren. “Given the Act’s fundamental failure to protect sources of drinking water, the government’s claim is clearly unsupportable unless and until the Act is substantially amended.” SUSTAINABLE WATER AND SEWAGE SYSTEMS ACT (BILL 175)

CELA is also concerned that the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act provides too narrow a definition of the components of “full cost” for water systems, which could act contrary to the objectives of watershed based source protection planning. On the waste water systems side of the Bill, the definition of “full cost” does not on its face encompass public and environmental costs such as untreatable or untreated discharges to the environment. Bill 175 also needs to deal explicitly with financing for small systems and for protection for low income Ontarians.

“Funding of the new, yet to be developed source protection framework will be critical. As the water systems financing bill, Bill 175 should be deferred until it can be integrated with the source protection framework,” said Theresa McClenaghan, CELA counsel.

To allow sufficient time to address these serious deficiencies, CELA is recommending that the Eves government defer passage of Bills 195 and 175 until the spring of 2003 at the latest.

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For further information regarding Bill 195, please contact Richard Lindgren (416-960-2284, ext. 214). For further information regarding Bill 175, please contact Theresa McClenaghan (416-960-2284, ext. 218).