Toronto – Yesterday, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Laurel Broten, introduced new legislation which is intended to protect current and future sources of drinking water. If passed, the Clean Water Act, 2005 will introduce a process by which threats to drinking water sources are identified and risk management strategies are put into action. It will also provide municipalities with the additional tools and powers they so desperately need to protect their waters.
The legislation supports the implementation of at least 22 of Justice O’Connor’s recommendations following the Walkerton Inquiry. As such, it is a significant first step towards the ultimate goal of protecting drinking water sources in all watersheds across Ontario.
“This legislation is urgently needed as the fundamental premise of drinking water protection in Ontario” stated Theresa McClenaghan, counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). Although a more in-depth analysis of the legislation will take place in the days and weeks to come, CELA is encouraged by a number of promising provisions.
One of the most important features of the legislation is its impact on other municipal and provincial laws or instruments. Where there is a conflict between the Clean Water Act, 2005 and a provision of another Act respecting the quality or quantity of drinking water, the provision that provides the greatest protection prevails.
Additionally, in the case of conflict, the Clean Water Act, 2005 will prevail over the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, and the source protection plans will prevail over municipalities’ official plans and zoning by-laws.
Another positive aspect of the legislation is the inclusion of provisions respecting private water sources, in addition to municipal systems. The option exists for municipalities to extend the planning process to include “clusters” of private systems, such as small rural communities on well water. Other protections to private wells may be implemented in the source protection plans.
The Clean Water Act, 2005 is expected to benefit the Great Lakes through a variety of mechanisms. The proposed legislation provides the Minister of the Environment with the authority to establish targets for source protection areas which contribute to the Great Lakes, set up advisory committees, and require the preparation of reports. Additionally, if this legislation is passed in Ontario, it will set an important precedent for watershed-based protection throughout the Great Lakes region.
We look forward to seeing the Clean Water Act, 2005 passed and implemented, so that the important work of protecting Ontario’s watersheds can proceed as expeditiously as possible. CELA will provide more detailed analysis shortly.
– 30 –
For further information:
Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Counsel Tel: 416-960-2284 ext. 218 Cell: 519-755-7579