wellsafe.net

is dedicated to co-ordinating the efforts of communities throughout Ontario who are concerned about Drinking Water Regulations.

Information updates on the status of Regulation 252/05 and other matters regarding drinking water issues in rural Ontario are posted below.

First time visitor? Read the background on this issue, and how this site came to be.

For a complete list of Ontario MPPs and how to contact them, click on:
http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/member_addresses.do?AddType=CONT&locale=en

List of licensed laboratories

Contact Us


UPDATE: November 28, 2006
Water Regs: Looks like status quo for the next 4 years

Download a printable version of this article (PDF file, 116k)

We’ve come a long way since the bad old days of Regulation 170, and I give Fred Ruf and his transition team at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOH) full marks for trying to get it right.

To refresh your memory, the regulation that replaced parts of 170—referred to as O.Reg 252/05—still remains under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment (MOE). It has been announced that the government intends to transfer this to the MOH, but enabling legislation has not yet been passed. It now looks like the process will take longer than originally expected.

Update
On October 28, 2006, Paul McCue of MOH addressed the Annual General Meeting of Ontario Farm & Country Accommodations regarding the transition of the water regulations. In summary, it sounds like it will be “status quo” for the next two to four years. This is both a good-news, bad-news scenario.

The Good News
The good news is that the tone of Paul’s presentation, and in fact every contact I have had with the Ministry of Health over the past year, is decidely promising. Staff is approaching our remaining challenges in a reasonable and realistic way. There is a new sense of affinity that was missing with the MOE. There is a new flexibility—not on the goal of ensuring safe drinking water, but on the way the goal will be achieved. There is a detailed recognition of individual circumstances, and even a shared sense of humour that underlies how silly some of the previous rules were. I find all of this highly encouraging.

We need to remember, however, that Fred and Paul and the entire team of public health inspectors and advisors that is working with them, do not make the rules. Those rules will be decided by elected politicians. So on the outstanding issues, nothing is yet official. You need to be good at reading between the lines.

The Bad News
The bad news is, if you have good water, it’s going to take longer to start resolving the whole mess. You are still governed by whatever Reg. 252 says about your situation. Even after it is officially moved to the Ministry of Health from Environment, that same regulation will continue to apply. Not until a Public Health Inspector visits your premise and performs a site-specific Risk Assessment might your current situation change.

Those Risk Assessments were originally scheduled to begin in January 2007. However, given the magnitude of the task at hand, the number of systems affected, and the procedures that still need to be developed, that schedule has now been set back a year. Risk Assessments will not begin until January 2008, at the earliest.

The upside is, it’s better to do it right than to do it fast. The downside is that it could take another four years for some low-risk facilities to see relief from the current requirements of 252.

The Process
There’s a possibility that Risk Assessments could be delayed even further. The “Health System Improvement Bill” that the transition will be part of is not likely to get to the Legislature before the Winter session of 2007. That happens to coincide with a provincial election next October. If there’s anything in the Bill that could upset the 18,000 affected private well owners, expect the political process to push it off the table.

It will take a further two years after Risk Assessment begins for the Ministry to report back to Cabinet on the results of the entire exercise, and recommend possible further changes to the regulation. This puts us well into 2010 and beyond.

Once you do get your Risk Assessment, the procedures that apply to you today could change, depending on the outcome. This might mean reduced (or increased) frequency of testing, installation of treatment for high-risk systems, and so on. If your testing history is good, you will probably get some relief. But until the Risk Assessment is done, you won’t know: everything remains exactly as it is today.

Who Pays?
Site-specific risk assessments will be based on a standardized computer model. They will be paid for by the province, NOT by you, the water system owner!

The Consequences
So is all this good or bad? Well, if you’re a B&B, it means you are technically required to continue monthly sampling and testing using your nearest private lab at whatever rate they charge. That’s not so great if you already have a long history of clean test results, and might reasonably expect to get relief if a risk assessment were performed today.

And because B&Bs are considered to be in one of the lowest risk categories as far as public health is concerned, it could take many years beyond 2008 before they ever see a health inspector. Priority will be given to surface water systems, larger systems, food preparation facilities and systems reporting previous adverse results. B&Bs will be well down the list.

Bed & Breakfasts are currently defined by the ministry as commercial establishments, and in my view, this needs to change. Under the regulation, they are considered ?Public Access Facilities? along with hotels and restaurants, when in fact access is entirely permission-based. Front doors are locked. When a guest comes to the door, they knock. Living space is shared with the resident homeowners. There is absolutely no “Public Access” to the “facilities” in an owner-occupied Bed and Breakfast.

I’ve been quite critical of the way this process has been managed in the past. And while this delay is inconvenient, it shouldn’t colour the good things that are being done by Health Ministry staff. The thing we still need to focus on is making sure the reality of our individual situations reaches their political masters. There is some discussion that Health Units themselves may be redefined and possibly decommissioned for the purposes of water testing right across the board. This would affect all rural residents in Ontario. I will try to monitor and report on this situation as it evolves.

For the Record
The Federation of Ontario Bed and Breakfast Accommodation (FOBBA), defines a Bed and Breakfast as follows:

“An owner-occupied private residential dwelling that is the owners principal residence and in which the owner has control of the environment. It provides temporary accommodation not exceeding 28 consecutive days, and amenities and services auxiliary to guest accommodation including the preparation and service of breakfast for an all inclusive fee.”

Private residences are entitled to test their drinking water through the local public health unit. In the meantime, the MOE regulation continues to say you must test your water (in the months you are open), at a private lab.

Test your water regularly. Keep copies of all your results. You’ll need them some day, even if it takes another four years.

Hopefully common sense will prevail.

 

UPDATE: June 8, 2006
Ministry hosts industry information meeting

On May 17, 2006, the Ministry of Health invited Ontario tourism associations and stakeholders to participate in a teleconference to update the status of Regulation 252, to review some of the challenges faced by operators particularly in Northern Ontario, and to obtain input.

In the interests of sharing information -- a goal that has been clearly stated by the Ministry of Health -- I am publishing recorded segments of that call. The meeting was hosted by Fred Ruf, Acting Head, Environmental Health and Toxicology, Food Safety and Safe Water Unit, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Comments or questions for Fred and his team can be directed to: safewater@moh.gov.on.ca

To listen to the clips and read a synopsis, click here.

 

UPDATE: June 7, 2006
Ministry of Environment announces changes to Reg 170

For operators who will remain under Regulation 170/03, the Ministry has made what appear to be substantial improvements to the regulation. For more information, go to http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/water/sdwa/dwsr.htm or download the press releases.

Release 1     Release 2

Note that this announcement does not affect operators who fall under regulation 252, which is currently migrating to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

For more information on the status of 252/05, see above.

 

UPDATE: April 22, 2006
Public testing is falling into private hands

There have been ongoing discussions in recent months regarding the move of Regulation 252 (under the Ministry of Environment) to the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOH). In general this move has been applauded by the tourism industry, but concerns remain.

Officially, little is known at this point as legislation has not yet come before the legislature. Unofficially, however, the process appears to be devolving in a manner that may not prove satisfactory to everyone. Within the Ministry of Health itself, there are fundamental differences of policy between front line staff working in the field, and the public health policy branch at Queen’s Park.

This much seems clear: Testing is likely to remain with private labs.

Furthermore, testing frequency is likely to remain on a monthly basis for small systems, at least until a history of consistent results can be demonstrated.

I am not at all optimistic that the Public Health Division at MOH is inclined to listen to the concerns of our industry, or the dissenting advice of its own field personnel. Certainly if we do nothing, the process is likely to end with an unsatisfactory result.

What are the issues today?

Clearly individual sectors of the tourism community have their own concerns. But I believe the key point we have in common is whether testing should be done through private or Public laboratories.

Direct questions on this point are invariably met with vague answers, but there are clear indications that testing will remain private. Why? Because the system is already set up that way.

This appears to be the government’s main argument: private testing is "in place" now. The thing we need to remember is that it has only been in place since June 2005, when the MOE backed off key parts of Reg 170 and implemented mandatory monthly testing through private labs. This has now become the de facto argument for not changing the status quo.

Let’s look at what it means.

Economically, the government has handed an immense volume of new business to a small number of accredited private labs, at significant expense to small rural tourism operators. In an example of the downloading begun by “the common sense revolution”, the McGuinty government is reducing the role and the capacity of its own Public Health Labs in favour of turning responsibility over to a single-source, for-profit system that provides no alternative for tourism operators.

I’m the first person to stand up in favour of free enterprise, but I believe this is what was once called a monopoly.

Monopoly may NOT be too strong a word, when you consider that most operators only have one lab to choose from in their geographic area. And that area can be vast: while the local health unit is often a relatively short distance away, the nearest private lab may be anything but. In total, there are 30 labs in all of Ontario, representing just 22 communities. (You can view the complete list at the end of this email.)

Furthermore, there is no regulatory mechanism in place to standardize pricing for what is, after all, a common, standardized testing and corrective procedure. If an operator wants to achieve a profit of, say, 50% versus only 25%, there is nothing preventing them from adjusting their fees accordingly. Market competition won’t stop them, and as captive customers of a limited private system, there is no one else upon whom we can call.

A position being advocated by a number of public health professionals involved in these discussions is that Public Health Labs should be taking samples from all “public access facilities” – not from “private” wells. Turn the language around and it becomes truly ironic: as private citizens, we can get our water tested at a Public lab, but as public access facilities, we are forced into private testing. If we accept that government is the custodian of public health, there’s a good argument that public access facilities be included within the mandate of the Public Health system.

Government should not be permitted to abdicate operational responsibility for public health to an economically unregulated private system where small water system owners have no choices and no ability to control their costs.

Churches, recreation centres, restaurants, B&Bs and campgrounds are all considered public access facilities.

When it comes to details, there can still be cut-off points. Perhaps a certain size or type of public access facility should go to private labs if only because their volume of business means they are better able to afford it. But smaller systems, or those that are geographically remote, should as a matter of policy be allowed to go to the Public Health labs.

Under the proposed new system, the opposite will be true.

The danger in all this is that once the policy comes out of the “black box” where it is now – hidden from public view – and gets to the House in the form of legislation, it may already be too late. Legislation can always be changed, of course, but laws based on an unprecedented, freshly-minted policy like this will be much more difficult to backtrack from once the rules are written. There may be tinkering at that stage, but nothing more.

So the time to act is now -- while there is still an opportunity to influence politicians and policy-makers with a view that reflects the will of the people and the industry.

A complete review of Public Health labs is taking place right now

Why is this important? Because this is potentially another nail in the coffin of public testing.

At a time when we have the opportunity to build out the infrastructure that would enable public laboratory testing on a large scale, government instead seems intent on reducing capacity. This is the point of no return. The whole subject could be moot, were a review not on the table in the first place. But it is, and the argument has been made that the Public testing alternative should be built into the review process. No one seems to be listening.

There would, of course, be costs. But instead of attempting to build an economic model that raises the capacity of public health, liability is being downloaded to the private sector. Government says that charging for testing services would put them in competition with private enterprise. My point is, that’s exactly what’s needed. Competition is precisely what is missing in this regulatory environment.

There are reports of monthly testing costs in the order of $75 in many locales. Yet the real cost – and the real fluctuations – occur if or when there is an adverse result. That’s when costs skyrocket. And no one has oversight of that process from a financial standpoint. Frankly, I think we’re only seeing the beginning of the problem.

What can you do?

If you are not sampling and testing your water, start now. It’s the law. Besides, if you can show a consistent history of clean tests once the Risk Assessment process begins, you’ll have a leg up on whatever happens next.

Secondly, if this affects you, it’s time once again to speak up. Two years ago, the outcry from the tourism industry was so loud and long, that government abandoned much of Regulation 170 and introduced 252. An improvement, yes, but issues remain. Bed and Breakfasts, for example, face nothing short of a crisis of definition, putting us at odds with proposed rules on several additional fronts. I'll write more about this in future.

Speak up. Write to your MPP, your local newspaper. Contact the Ministry of Health. I have provided a list of contacts and resources below.

I've received "a few" emails in the last few days, and they are very much appreciated. But I ask you to send that message to government.

Thank you for your support and continued interest in this important issue.

garrett klassen
The 3 Bears Bed and Breakfast
Elora, ON

Resources

Private Lab Locations: A puzzle in Geography

According to the Ministry of Environment’s website, there are exactly 30 licensed laboratories in all of Ontario who will accept “outside clients” (that’s us), and who are able to do Micro Biological tests.

They are located in the following cities:

Chatham
Garson
Gloucester
Guelph
Kingston (2)
Kirkland Lake
Lakefield
London (4)
Long Sault
Mississauga (3)
Nepean
Niagara Falls
Niagara-on-the-Lake
North Bay
Orillia
Ottawa
Peterborough
Pickering
Thunder Bay (2)
Toronto
Waterloo
Windsor (2)

For the complete list of licensed labs, addresses and phone numbers, click on

http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/water/sdwa/licensedlabs.php

For a complete list of Ontario MPPs and how to contact them, click on:
http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/member_addresses.do?AddType=CONT&locale=en

 

Who to contact

Administrators:

Advisory Council on Drinking Water Quality and Testing Standards
Chair: Jim Merritt, 416-314-3606
Email: jim.merrit@ene.gov.on.ca
Website: http://www.odwac.gov.on.ca/

Sheela Basrur
Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, and
Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Health
Email: sheela.basrur@moh.gov.on.ca
11th Floor, Hepburn Block
Queens Park, Toronto M7A 1R3
416-212-3831

Fred Ruf
Acting Head, Environmental Health and Toxicology,
Food Safety and Safe Water Unit
Email: fred.ruf@moh.gov.on.ca
5700 Yonge St, 8th floor
Toronto, On M2M 4K5
416-327-7624

Bill Allen
Deputy Minister of Tourism
email c/o Peter Evans, Executive Assistant:
Email: peter.evans@mtr.gov.on.ca
Phone: 416-314-7846

Politicians:

George Smitherman
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Email: gsmitherman.mpp@liberal.ola.org
80 Grosvenor Street
11th Floor Hepburn Block
Toronto, M7A 2C4
416-327-4300

Laurel Broten
Minister of the Environment
Email: lbroten.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Main Legislative Building, Room 321
Queen's Park,
Toronto, ON, M7A 1A4
416-325-0226

Jim Bromwell
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism
Email: jbrownell.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Opposition Critics:

Laurie Scott
Environment Critic (PC)
Haliburton-Victoria-Brock
416 325 2008
Email: laurie_scott@ontla.ola.org

Elizabeth Witmer
Health Critic (PC)
Email:elizabeth.witmerco@pc.ola.org

Shelley Martel
Health Critic (NDP)
Email: smartel-qp@ndp.on.ca

Ted Arnott
Tourism Critic (PC)
Email: ted.arnott@pc.ola.org

Rosario Marchese
Critic, Tourism & Recreation, (NDP)
Email: rmarchese-co@ndp.on.ca

For a short “refresher course” on where this is coming from and why, read a recent speech by The Honourable Laurel Broten, Minister of the Environment
“Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities - Protecting Our Shared Legacy”
November 16, 2005
Click on: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/news/speeches/111605.htm

 

UPDATE: June 29, 2005
Down to the wire, changes in Cabinet

Well, the news from the Ministry of Health is not great. The verbal response from the lawyers is that B&Bs fall under a section of the HPPA that has more to do with food processing (you read that right) than it does with the boarding house exemption. My contact at MOH was clearly concerned with the result, especially since he is the person who has to stick-handle the transition from MOE. He has now asked MOH lawyers for a written ruling, and if that ruling is the same as what he told me verbally, then Ontario Bed and Breakfasts could have a legal challenge on their hands. This challenge is not facetious. It would be based on an interpretation that is completely inconsistent between three different Ministries.

Here's an example. The OFCA, which is a small body of residential farm B&Bs, is regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture. Part of their Charter requires members to test their water every month through the Department of Public Health; otherwise they lose their status. It has worked for years; the travelling public is protected. So here comes an MOE regulation that requires PRIVATE testing, and a potential HPPA interpretation from the Ministry of Health which says B&Bs are in the same category as food manufacturers that process milk. (I am not making this up.)

What do you say to that? The OFCA is trying to arrange a meeting of its Board of Directors to go over the whole thing, but guess what? It's summer. Everyone is busy. Meanwhile, June 30 is tomorrow. I just shake my head.

To make matters even more interesting, today's Cabinet shuffle moves Environment Minister Leona Dombrowski to Agriculture, Cabinet newcomer Laurel Broten (previously Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier) takes over Environment, and ex-Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson takes on the new Ministry of Health Promotion. Something to do with water perhaps? Stand by.

Doug Reynolds at NOTO has rightly reminded me that these revised regulations are an improvement, and while far from perfect, many tourism operators feel they can live with these significantly reduced requirements.

In general, I absolutely agree. But your emails tell me that all is not well in la-la land. I have intentionally pushed the point onto government, specifically regarding B&Bs, because they/we are in an absolutely unique situation.

For many, it is NOT prohibitive to test through private labs, and some B&Bs have made the decision to do so. But others have decided to post warnings instead. Look deeper, and as government downloads liability and forces B&Bs into private lab testing, guess where the liability lands. If you post a sign that says the water is not tested, does the liability change? Walkerton was a disastrous and tragic sequence of events. But read between the complex lines, and look at how government is downloading the consequences of that tragedy onto the private sector.

My position is that my Bed and Breakfast is private property. We DO indeed accept money in return for personal service. But in my situation, the decision of whether or not I choose to accept that money, and that guest, rests with me. It's my home. I live in an owner-occupied principal residence, and there are rules that apply to me under those circumstances. Now we have additional, conflicting regulations that are being layered on by an administration that has no idea what I do.

I can choose to accept guests, or not to accept guests, because this is my home. HOW I do that in practice is a very fine line. It's a reading I get from the conversation on the phone, and how I direct it. But it is my right. A hotel can't do that. A hotel is a public facility. A Bed and Breakfast is a private home.

One of the most recent emails I received (thanks Jane) concerned an MOE employee who has been quite vocal over the past 12 months about the fact that B&Bs are NOT exempt from Reg 170/252. As of three days ago, this same person is saying on the MOE help line that B&Bs not only DO NOT need to post or test, but that they can continue to test through the public Health Unit labs! I'll take him at his word. Maybe he knows something I don't. No wonder people are confused.

Last thought: for about three days last week, I had posted on this website a draft press release which I was planning to send to the Ontario media last Sunday. The headline read: "Ontario Government succeeds where SARS failed". I pulled it, and have not distributed it because things are in flux, and until I know the outcome I'm reluctant to stir the pot that far. But I will if I have to.

By its actions, the Ontario government has raised the spectre that Ontario water is unsafe to drink. The optics of the signing policies create that impression. How will that affect Ontario tourism in the long term? The Ontario government had no idea what they were entering into when they announced this law. There are legitimate battles to fight for safe drinking water. But it is up to us to remind government where those battles do and do not lie.

 

UPDATE: June 23, 2005
One week to go and confusion reigns

I finally connected with Fred Ruf at the Ministry of Health yesterday. He has still not received an answer to my question from MOH lawyers regarding a province-wide food premise definition. However -- I really don't think that's too important right now. Fred confirmed the widely-held interpretation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) that establishments serving meals to fewer than 10 (i.e. nine or under) are NOT considered a food establishment. And according to 252, that means anyone meeting this definition has the option to post signs that their water has not been tested, should they so choose. If you decide NOT to post, you would need to test through one of the private labs listed on the government's website, as well as meet the various other requirements associated with that.

If you are not sure what "fewer that 10" means for your situation (for example, 9 in total? at one time? meals per day?) please check with your local Health Unit. The HPPA is their Act.

Lawyers will always be lawyers, and things are in transition. What I believe the Ministry of Health is saying to the industry is: "the water regs are new to us, and we just want to double check to make sure we've got it straight before we formalize something that affects the entire province in a changing administration." This is a good thing.

Contrast this with the MOE, which is still giving out contradictory, and in my opinion, wrong information. Yesterday, for example, a Larry Taylor informed one of my correspondents that even WITH a private lab test, the 'don't drink the water' signs are compulsory, NOT because of any designation as a food premise, but because "someone might take a gulp out of the shower tap while showering, have a minor tummy ache and blame it on the water and then sue."

There are at least three errors in his statement. One, if you test with a private lab, you do NOT have to post warning signs. Two, the option to post has EVERYTHING to do with whether or not you are a food premise; 252 is pretty clear about that. And three, it's not "unsafe to drink" signs that are compulsory, at least for most situations. If you don't test privately, the sign most people need to put up says "this water has not been tested." Click here to see what they look like.

Larry Taylor went on to say that private versus public lab testing has nothing to do with food service or the burden on Public Health, but with the fact a B&B is a business and the government wants to offload the responsibility in a potential lawsuit onto the private sector.

Yes folks, that's what he said. This is something senior industry leaders have been claiming is behind the Reg for a long time, to the continual denial of the MOE. And because of this, at least one B&B in our community has decided to post instead of test because of the potential liability that could arise in the event of a bad test. Understandably, they would rather not test and TELL people they are not testing. Now, isn't this the opposite result of what government wanted when they claimed their concern was safe water?

Personally, for our B&B, I'm not waiting for the lawyers anymore. Sometime around June 29, I'll decide whether to test-market the signs, create my own, or challenge the MOE to cuff me. (Hmm... free room and board. Tough call.)

I want to share a comment I received from Andy (Andrea) Strachan at Pandy Bear's B&B. Andy wrote:

"I am just now starting to catch on to the ridiculousness of this entire Regulation. I printed off the form to fax to the MOE stating that I would post signs (which I thought would state that we had safe drinking water) and then called the public information MOE office that supplies the signs to have signs sent to me. Even though we get a 0/0 reading through the Public Health Units, we have to post signs saying that our water is unsafe to drink, because we do not PAY to have our water tested monthly at private labs.  And, if we post the signs saying we have unsafe drinking water, we do NOT have to get our water tested? Have I got this right?"

Unfortunately, yes. Which in the end proves that irony is not a lost art. It is alive and well, and living in government.

One last point for today. Fred Ruf (MOH) said he had a bit of a concern when I indicated my intention to post "not tested" signs and continue to test through the public health unit. He said these facilities are not intended for commercial businesses, which is correct. When I pointed out that our B&B is an owner-occupied principal residence and therefore qualifies to use the public lab service, I think a light went on. I believe we can look forward to a lot more co-operation from Health than we're getting from Environment, and it can't happen soon enough.

Clarification

In an earlier email, I talked about the "Chain of Custody" form. To me, this meant anyone handling the sample had to indicate same, so that a tracking history could be established if needed. Apparently, (and I still haven't seen it), the Chain of Custody form goes into the cooler with the sample, and is signed only by the person taking the sample and the person receiving it at the lab. Leave it to government to give something a name that has nothing to do with what it really is. I've suggested they change the name of this form to something else.

Ministry of Environment News Release re: Reg 170
Posting date: June 22

The MOE has issued a release and Media backgrounder specific to the regulatory changes affecting the three system categories still governed under Regulation 170. To read the documents, click the links below.

Ontario Consults (pdf file: 24k)
Media Backgrounder (pdf file: 28k)

Who's getting fined? Link to the MOE's News Release page.

UPDATE: June 20, 2005, 5:30 p.m.
Still No Answer from Ministry of Health

I know that many of you are waiting for an official interpretation from the Ministry of Health regarding what constitutes a food premise as it relates to Reg 252/05. I've made four follow-up calls to the Ministry, and with nine days to go, we don't have an answer yet.

What I can tell you is that two County Health Supervisors and one Health Inspector have told me quite unequivocally that B&Bs who serve fewer than 10 people do NOT fall under the HPPA's definition of a food premise, and would therefore be eligible to post signs under 252 -- if that is your preference to the option of private lab testing.

My concern, and my reason for going to the Ministry of Health, was to ensure that this interpretation would be consistent for all such establishments throughout Ontario, particularly since this has NOT been the position of the Ministry of the Environment over the past 18 months.

Given that there's not much time left, affected establishments may want to notify the Ministry of the Environment of their intention to post notices (should you so choose), and then follow the procedures outlined on the MOE website. I will update this site when I have more information.

Thank you to the many people who have sent messages of support.

To download the Guide for Small Non-Municipal Non-Residential system owners, click here.

 

UPDATE: June 13, 2005
Hold your Horses

Health Ministry to clarify definition of "food premise"

This message is of specific interest to Ontario B&Bs with a private water source; possibly also small churches and halls.

There is clearly a lot of confusion about new Reg 252 and what constitutes a "Food Premise" as defined by the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA).

According to 252/05, you can post signs saying that your water has not been tested IF you are NOT a Food Premise. (This means you could continue testing through the Public Health Units, should you choose to test at all, which, by the way, I highly recommend.) If you ARE considered a food premise, you would need to comply with the private lab testing requirements.

Here's the thing: in the past few days, I have heard different interpretations of where B&Bs fall under the Food Premise definition. After speaking with Public Health Supervisors in two counties today, I have contacted the senior Ministry of Health official responsible for the regulatory transition from MOE to MOH and put to him the question of how B&Bs are defined. To ensure that the interpretation is based in law, this matter has been referred to Ministry of Health lawyers, and we have been promised a ruling within two days.

I hope to post a clarification on this website by Thursday, with the Ministry of Health's official position on this matter.

UPDATE: May 31, 2005
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Proposed changes don't go far enough

On May 17, the Ministry of the Environment posted proposed changes to water regulations on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry for a Comment Period of only 12 days, well short of the required 30 days. This appears to have been done in order "to make the proposed regulation effective as a law as close to June 1, 2005 as possible."

The proposals are a mixed bag for small water system owners. While they are an improvement over the original requirements of Reg 170, they fall short of what many had hoped for, and appear to ignore some of the Advisory Council's key recommendations. I stand to be corrected on my interpretation of the proposed new rules, and welcome any additional clarity anyone might bring.

The Bed and Breakfast community responded to the EBR posting within the 12-day comment period. If you wish to read our submission, you can do so by clicking here. (pdf file, 76k).

Watch for additional announcements from the Ministry of the Environment within days.

Contact me


NOTO Comments on EBR Posting

Click here to download the written submission from NOTO in response to the proposed changes. (pdf file, 152k)

 

NEWS: May 17, 2005
Proposed Regulations Announced

To read the proposed regulation at the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry,
click here
. You only have until May 29 to comment.

Be sure to download the pdf files from the links at the bottom of the Registry page. These are the detailed proposals.

Please note the following important details (as posted by the Ministry, in quotes):

"All comments will be considered as part of the decision-making by the Ministry if they:
a. are submitted in writing;
b. reference the EBR Registry number; and
c. are received by the Contact person within the specified comment period.
Please Note: No acknowledgment or individual response will be provided to those who comment. All comments and submissions received will become part of the public record."

I will try to post my comments here within the next few days.
(garrett - wellsafe admin)

NEWS: April 3, 2005
Small Water Systems likely to get New Regulation

Although the Ontario government hasn't spelled out details yet, the Report of the Advisory Council on Drinking Water Quality and Testing Standards makes clear the direction the Ministry of the Environment is likely to take.

Minister Dombrowski calls the recommendations "thoughtful and practical", proposing "a new, science-based approach to determine the level of testing and treatment needed" for private systems that serve the public

The Minister writes that her Ministry "will take the advice of this report, along with comments received from consultations, as we shape our plan to have a more workable set of regulations..."

Click here to read our summary interpretation of the Advisory Council Report, and what it could mean for changes to Ontario Drinking Water Regulation 170.

Download the entire Advisory Council Report (pdf file, 232 k)

NEWS: March 22, 2005

Today, the Advisory Council on Drinking Water Quality and Testing Standards released its report, which is dated February 8, 2005, Also today, the Environment Ministry posted a news release on its website, thanking the Council, and announcing that the Minister will study its recommendations.

The report will take time to digest, but on first blush, there are some positive indicators. It would seem clear that detailed discussions have been taking place at the policy and regulatory level for some weeks now. At the moment, what we are looking at is the result of the consultative wheels that the government has put in motion, and (excuse me for being cynical) the politics of how those results will be managed.

Leona Dombrowski once told an audience... After the summer of 2004, I know what I'm going to carve on my tombstone. "I survived Regulation 170." As small tourism operators come up to our prime season, it's time for the Minister to send a clear and decisive message: reinstill confidence in the small tourism economy, so that we can continue operating, and continue acting as we always have with respect to water quality -- responsibly.

Updated February 23, 2005

Minister announces inspections and oversight headed back to Public Health

On February 22, Leona Dombrowski gave the keynote address to the Ontario Good
Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) in
Toronto.In it, she made reference to Regulation 170, and while still
vague, the Minister has clearly indicated that inspection of small water
systems (including Municipal small water systems!!) is best overseen by
public health units.

Here is part of what she said:
"Last Fall, the Council heard from those who drink the water and those who deliver the water in consultations in 12 small and rural communities across the province.

What the panel heard and what the ROMA/AMO task force is recommending is very consistent. Many of the people who spoke to the advisory council recommended that public health units should once again become involved in overseeing private water systems that serve the public.

In many cases, public health inspectors are already visiting businesses such as restaurants. When it comes down to it, serving safe clean water is a matter of public health. Indeed, the ROMA/AMO task force recommended that public health inspectors should inspect municipal systems serving community centres and arenas and other municipal facilities too.

So there seems to be a consensus that when dealing with small systems that are not residential systems, but that serve the public, it is a public health matter that is best overseen by public health units."

The read the complete text of her speech on the government website, click here.

To download an MSWord file of only the section of her speech that dealth with Regulation 170, click here. (32k)

Advisory Council Information Session cancelled until further notice.

The Ministry of Environment has cancelled the information session scheduled for Monday, February 21, 2005 until further notice. No reason was given.

You can access a summary of Advisory Council meetings held throughout Ontario last October and November by visiting their website. Read and download the presentations by clicking here.

Links and downloads

Summary of Economic Impact survey data.
(pdf file)

wellsafe / FOBBA presentation to Advisory Council
October 28, 2005 (pdf file)

Verbatim comments from survey respondents:
(read online)

CH Live@5:30 interview with MOE Minister Leona Dombrowski
Televised July 13, 2004. Audio file. Interview duration: 8 minutes.

NOTO recommendations presented to MOE, July 7, 2004 (read online)

Water Drinkability: Muskoka Watershed Report Card, released July 8, 2004: (pdf file, 232kb) You can download the complete report at: http://www.muskokaheritage.org/watershed/watershedreportcard.asp

Do you have links or downloads to post? Click on the Post a Comment tab,
or contact us.

If you have problems navigating this site, please click here.

About this Site

This website became active on April 28, 2004, and is very much a work in progress. We are doing this on our own time, with no money, so please be patient as we add links and functionality.

If you wish to be kept informed about developments on this issue, please email me and I will add you name to my distribution list.

The Issue

You are no doubt aware that the Ministry of Environment (MOE) is implementing a regulation that requires community and business establishments whose water supply is available to the general public to make significant changes to their private wells.

The required changes are potentially crippling to business, to the community and to the Ontario tourism economy. The capital cost to rural business of implementation and testing is currently being assessed, in part through the Economic Impact survey available on this site. Click here to see one estimate for a typical B&B.

Yet, to our knowledge, the government has never conducted an Economic Impact study of how this regulation will affect Ontario Tourism, how it will impact the ability of B&Bs to continue to provide accommodations, how it will affect restaurants, churches, campgrounds, community groups and others; how it will impact employment, tax revenues and perhaps the very survival of entire rural communities.

Click here to see background information and treatment deadlines.

The Challenge

As those most affected, the single biggest challenge we face is communication. We have our own local organizations and memberships, but there is no easy way of co-ordinating with and contacting each other on this issue, or other issues like it.

This website is an attempt to build a communications infrastructure through which we can more effectively influence change. One of its goals is to build a database through which we can quickly communicate.

The Action

Our first action has been to implement a web-based survey to assess, as much as possible, the Economic Impact of Drinking Water Systems Regulation 170/03.

Data collection was completed on August 30, 2004. Results have been analyzed & are posted on this site and available for download, above. Data was collected, tabulated and reported by Acrobat Research Inc. an independent Toronto-based market research firm. Click here to see the original the questionnaire.

The Stories

In the past few months, we have read reports and heard stories from groups across Ontario. The survey gives us statistical information. But this website is also an opportunity to tell your story about what the Regulation will mean for you and for your community. Click on the Post a Comment link, or Read the Comments others have submitted.

What the Government Says

Who DOESN’T want clean water? Nobody. That’s the point. We live here. We drink it ourselves.

No one can challenge the objective of Regulation 170/03: we need to ensure a safe water supply. What we reject, is the government's opening proposition that anyone who disagrees with the regulation is irresponsible and does not care about public safety. This message comes through loud and clear in the government's advertising in 2004, and it is the brush with which they paint anyone who disagrees with the Regulation.

Here’s a quote from the Sentinel-Review in Woodstock, Ontario:

Lamine Bekkout, a spokesperson with the public information centre of the ministry of the environment, said that after the Walkerton tragedy, it is impossible to put a price tag on the public’s safety. “When you compare the cost to the health of the public, it is not a big choice to make,” he said. “We would rather spend a couple of bucks more than have people dying from E. coli.”

“ A couple of bucks?” “We?” “Dying from E. coli?” Are we addressing the municipal system that caused the Walkerton tragedy, or private well water systems? The tourism service providers of Ontario take strong exception to these types of grandstanding comments and irresponsible categorizations!

What is the MOE thinking?

Doug Reynolds, Executive Director of NOTO - The Voice of Nature and Outdoor Tourism in Ontario - recently came across an MOE job posting for Investigations Officers. Qualifications have more to do with prosecution and judicial procedure than working with helping us provide clean water. Click here to read the ad.

NOTO has recommended moving jurisdiction over small water systems from Environment back to Health. Click here to read the comments.

What else can you do?

Complete our online survey. Read the user forum on this site and post a comment. Contact your MP, your local council, your Ministry of Tourism representative.
Download contact list for Ontario MPPs.

It’s time that tourism service providers made their voices heard. The simple fact that we have no easy way to contact each other on this issue should not be the reason that some of us have to close.

Register your voice. Stay informed. Send a message.

 

Back to top

 

 

Your feedback is welcome. Please direct comments, questions or suggestions to wellsafe@the3bears.com
Website created and maintained by Crunch! Inc. Communications