Toronto. Environmental groups have identified a number of significant shortcomings in the new Drinking Water Protection Regulation announced today by the Ontario government.”The new regulation is only an interim step,” stated Richard Lindgren, staff lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). “The new regulation does not contain all of the safeguards needed to fully protect the quality and quantity of drinking water in Ontario.”
“In our view, the new regulation does not displace the need for special drinking water legislation in Ontario,” said Shelley Petrie of the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA). “In the wake of the Walkerton tragedy, we reasonably expected a far more substantive response from the Ontario government.” The new regulation entrenches some long overdue water testing, treatment and reporting requirements, but it does NOT:
- create a clear statutory right to clean and safe drinking water;
- require the Environment Minister to create a water quality registry which compiles all water testing results from public water suppliers;
- require the Environment Minister to publicly report on the state of Ontario’s drinking water, to conduct research into drinking water matters, or to establish a special fund to provide financial assistance to public water suppliers;
- impose a mandatory duty upon public water suppliers to notify consumers if there are operational problems (i.e. equipment breakdown) or testing delays or difficulties;
- prohibit tampering with or degrading public water supplies, or threatening or attempting to do so;
- prohibit public water suppliers from providing drinking water that exceeds the maximum permitted levels for contaminants;
- create citizen enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the regulation;
- create a statutory cause of action allowing citizens to sue violators of the regulation; or
- impose a mandatory duty upon drinking water suppliers to assess the vulnerability of drinking water sources to contamination.
CELA and TEA have previously applied under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) for a review of the need for a Safe Drinking Water Act in Ontario. Under the EBR, Environment Minister Dan Newman has until the end of August to formally report back to CELA and TEA as to his intentions regarding a Safe Drinking Water Act in Ontario.
“We are concerned that the new regulation – like any regulation – can be easily amended or eliminated at the stroke of the Minister’s pen, without any legislative review or debate,” stated Mr. Lindgren of CELA. “This is another reason why drinking water protection should be entrenched in special legislation, not regulation.” “The new regulation does little to address the root causes of drinking water problems, such as obsolete infrastructure, or pollution from industrial or agricultural sources,” stated Ms. Petrie of TEA. “Under the regulation, we will likely see more – not less – boil water orders and advisories as drinking water sources continue to remain at risk.”
For more information:
Richard Lindgren (CELA) 613-385-1686
Shelley Petrie (TEA) 416-596-0660