OMWA interviews Jim Smith, chair of the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC)
What is the mandate and role of the ODWAC?
The broad mandate of the Council is to provide advice and make recommendations to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change on drinking water quality and testing standards, as well as other drinking water matters deemed appropriate to merit the attention of the Minister.
Can you give us a brief history?
On May 23, 2002, Justice O’Connor, in the Part Two Report of the Walkerton Inquiry, recommended the establishment on an “Advisory Council on Standards” for drinking water, as well as making five specific recommendations with respect to the Council.
On May 12, 2004, The Minister of the Environment announced the establishment of the Ontario
Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC), known formally as the “Advisory Council on Drinking-Water Quality and Testing Standards” in the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002.
Enabled under Section 4 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, the Council is “to consider issues relating to standards for drinking-water quality and testing and to make recommendations to the Minister” of the Environment, which are to be “taken into consideration in establishing and revising standards under this Act for drinking-water quality and testing.”
Continue reading “An interview with Jim Smith, ODWAC”
What is the Standard of Care?
By 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.
Given 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”
(Water)3 is the new online publication from the Ontario Municipal Water Association. It will focus on water-related issues, events, technologies, news and politics, with an emphasis on Ontario.
(Water)3 encompasses all aspects of drinking water, stormwater and wastewater (also called reusable water and recycled water), groundwater, source protection, including related areas of health, treatment, First Nations, legislation and training.
In 2017, we will have two issues, and expand to four in 2018. In between issues, we will have our Twitter feed active and will publish interim articles, updates and commentaries to keep the content relatively fresh.
(Water)3 will complement our popular newswire service to keep members up to date on issues, events, policies and technologies.
We welcome submissions, advertising, news releases and comments. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
New 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.
Continue reading “Stormwater Fees: Is Your Municipality Ready?”
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.”
Continue reading “Framing the Fluoride Debate”
Nineteen sixty-six: fifty years ago. The year the Beatles released their Revolver album. President Lyndon Johnson committed the United States to fight South Vietnam until Communist aggression ended. The Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan both begin operation. The Toronto Transit Commission opened the Bloor-Danforth Subway line. The CBC became the first Canadian television network to broadcast in colour.
And in October, the Ontario Municipal Water Association was formed.
It began with a simple resolution to create an organization “…with respect to area water supply comparable to the Ontario Municipal Electrical Association.” Fifteen participating municipalities from southwestern Ontario all signed it.
A month later, the first constitution was adopted, and in March, 1967, the first annual meeting drew 185 delegates from municipalities from across Ontario and one from Quebec. C.J.F. Ross QC, vice chair of London Public Utilities Commission, was elected as the first president of OMWA. Jim Craig was appointed executive director.
The Ontario Municipal Water Association is unique in Canada: a political organization advocating for municipally-owned water systems. It has no competing interests, allowing OMWA the autonomy to take political positions in the best interests of its membership, and petition government to act accordingly.
In 1969, the first meeting of a new Ontario branch of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) – the forerunner of today’s OWWA – attracted 102 delegates. The new branch opened talks with OMWA to host a joint conference, beginning in 1971. The two organizations also held their first joint annual meeting in 1971.
Continue reading “OMWA: Celebrating Fifty Years”
What could be more romantic for Valentine’s Day than to take your date on a tour of the local wastewater plant? That’s how the New York City Department of Environmental Protection promotes its highly successful tours, now in their fifth year (1). In 2015, three Sunday tours of 100 people each were booked. Participants took home a commemorative card and lapel pin.(2)
During the tour, participants got a quick course on how the city treats its wastewater before they are taken around the plant. It all takes about 90 minutes. The event has developed a bit of a cult following and reservations for a spot fill up rapidly. The website tells people what to expect and – importantly – what to wear.(3)
The result of each tour is dozens of media articles, hundreds of tweets and Facebook posts, a couple of YouTube videos (4), all free publicity for the municipal water services. Plus, it creates a growing public appreciation of municipal water treatment and its infrastructure, which can only help recruitment.
Public understanding of utility services is at best sketchy. After all, most of the infrastructure is hidden below ground or behind walls. There’s a disconnect between what comes from the tap and how it gets to it, safely and cleanly. That can be changed.
A tour is an opportunity to open the doors and let people see what their tax dollars are spent on. And they get to put faces to the process, meeting the workers and seeing their environment, which helps them connect to the service better than any charts or numbers will.
Continue reading “The Romance of Wastewater”