February 16, 2004

Manitoba proclaims drinking water safety law, names new head of hearings agency

Manitoba's Drinking Water Safety Act was proclaimed in force January 30, bringing into effect new regulations to ensure drinking water protection.

"The province is taking significant steps to ensure high water quality standards and to protect Manitobans from the threat posed by water-borne diseases. This legislation will help to reinforce efforts already undertaken and will further help to protect water quality in our province," said Water Stewardship Minister Steve Ashton. He noted that the Drinking Water Safety Act is part of an overall plan by the government to improve many aspects of water quality in Manitoba.

Proclamation of the act provides the legislative authority to support initiatives already undertaken to protect water quality including establishing the Office of Drinking Water, designating drinking water officers and outlining their powers, identifying the powers of the medical officer of health, establishing an appeal process, providing a framework for reporting violations and establishing fines under the act. In addition, the act also provides the ability to regulate semi-public water systems, which were not regulated previously.

Developed in consultation with public health officials, the regulations related to water quality standards will set out requirements for drinking water quality that must be met by public and semi-public water systems including bacteriological, chemical, physical and microbial standards. Chemical and physical water quality standards will be phased in for public water systems. The drinking water safety regulations will also deal with construction and alteration permits, and operating licences for public and semi-public water systems. They cover areas such as:

* disinfection requirements,

* testing and record-keeping,

* sampling and analysis requirements for drinking water quality standards,

* reporting of laboratory analyses and emergency notification,

* annual reports and public information requirements for water suppliers, and

* infrastructure assessments and requirements for non-potable systems.

The regulations will be finalized in the spring.

In other environment-related news, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers recently announced the appointment of Terry Sargeant as the new chair of Manitoba's Clean Environment Commission (CEC). He replaces Terry Duguid who resigned as chair in early December.

Sargeant was previously chief appeal commissioner of the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba and was the member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake from 1979 to 1984. His career includes several posts within the governments of British Columbia, Manitoba and the Yukon. He received a law degree from the University of Manitoba in 1999.

Struthers also announced the appointment of two new members to the Commission and the reappointment of six others who will continue to work with five existing board members.

Appointed for three-year terms are Wayne Motherall and Harvey Nepinak. Motherall, former president of the Union of Manitoba Municipalities, has represented municipalities on advisory groups to Manitoba Conservation. Nepinak, former chief of Waterhen First Nation, is a consultant for the West Region Tribal Council on co-management agreements.

Reappointed for three-year terms are Ian Halket, Gerard Lecuyer, Ken Wait, Connie Pringle, Judy Head and Barrie Webster. They rejoin members Myrle Traverse, Lissa Donner, John Hreno, Wayne Sato and Kenneth Gibbons.

Lecuyer continues as chair of the panel currently reviewing the proposed Wuskwatim hydro generating station and transmission project. A former environment minister and minister responsible for workplace safety and health, Lecuyer has been on the Commission board since July 2000. He was appointed by the Minister to replace Duguid, who had held this post as well as that of CEC chair prior to his resignation.

Struthers thanked Duguid for his hard work and dedication in chairing the CEC, noting that under Duguid's leadership, the Commission has reviewed a number of important projects including the Winnipeg floodway, the city of Winnipeg's wastewater treatment and collection system, the Brandon industrial wastewater treatment facility and the Maple Leaf Foods hog processing plant.

The CEC has been reviewing a proposal by Manitoba Hydro for the development of the Wuskwatim Generating Station. As part of the review process, an integrated public hearing process has been established to consider the justification, need for and alternatives to the Wuskwatim proposals, and the potential environmental, socio-economic and cultural effects of construction and operation of the project. The public hearings are scheduled to begin on March 1, 2004.

The Commission is an arms-length provincial agency whose mandate is to facilitate public involvement in environmental matters and to offer advice and recommendations to the Conservation Minister concerning environmental issues, project approvals and environmental licences.

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