March 1, 2004

Newfoundland to apply consistent standards to facilities with private water supplies

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is proposing new drinking water quality standards for commercial and institutional facilities which have private water supplies. A discussion paper recently released by Environment Minister Tom Osborne proposes mandatory continuous disinfection and regular sampling and testing for bacteriological and chemical quality. It also calls for facility owners or operators to be responsible for all costs associated with the disinfection and water quality monitoring.

The goal is to apply the same level of drinking water quality standards for the province's public water supplies to private water systems.

"We are looking for input on applying the provincial Standards for Bacteriological Quality of Public Drinking Water Supplies and Standards for Chemical and Physical Monitoring of Drinking Water to commercial and institutional facilities that provide drinking water to the public," Osborne said.

Institutional and commercial facilities include such facilities as public and private schools, hospitals, service stations, motels and restaurants, and parks and campgrounds.

"Water samples are collected from these facilities each time they are inspected, but the frequency of collection is not within current provincial standards," Osborne said. "We want the water supplies at these facilities to be disinfected continuously and tested periodically to ensure they meet the same standard as public water supplies."

The paper says the fundamental issue is not the safety or the water quality as such, but rather ensuring adequate disinfection and frequency of water quality monitoring. All drinking water in the province must be bacteriologically safe and must meet the same chemical standards, regardless of source. Currently, however, the government considers the frequency of water sample collection from private water systems to be insufficient and disinfection of the majority of supplies inadequate. Unlike public water supplies which are regularly monitored by government departments, private supplies are tested only to a limited degree for bacteriological parameters and practically never for chemical and physical parameters.

Along with mandatory continuous disinfection, the paper proposes that sampling be conducted monthly for bacteriological sampling and twice a year for basic chemical analysis. The latter, it says, could be reduced to once a year under certain circumstances. All costs associated with the disinfection and water quality monitoring would be borne by the owner or operator of the facility.

The Department of Environment, in consultation with the Departments of Health and Community Services, Municipal and Provincial Affairs and Government Services and Lands, is developing an appropriate testing regime for commercial and institutional water supplies to meet drinking water standards. The proposed testing regime will be discussed during the consultation stage.

More information, including copies of the discussion paper on standards for institutional and commercial water supplies, may be requested from Martin Goebel, director of the water resources division, 709/729-2563. The paper may also be viewed on the department's Web site,, where comments can be submitted on-line. Comments are due by April 2, 2004.

A second discussion paper issued by the department proposes revisions to the pesticides control regulations under Newfoundland and Labrador's Environmental Protection Act. These regulations, which have not been revised since 1996, will be updated to bring them into line with current expectations surrounding the purchase, handling, storage, use and disposal of both restricted and domestic class pesticides.

"Our current regulations need to be updated to ensure pesticide use is undertaken by properly trained individuals and under conditions which protect environmental and public health," Osborne said. "We also want to ensure a better control over the sale and use of pesticides in the province, as well as bring our legislation more in line with other provinces."

The revisions are intended to improve the conditions under which licensed pesticide vendors and operators, as well as agricultural producers, are permitted to handle commercial and restricted class pesticides. The paper also outlines proposed changes to improve the handling and management of domestic class pesticides. Specific sections contain proposals for updating portions of the regulations dealing with operator licences, vendor licences, unlicensed assistants, purchase of pesticides and storage requirements (including storage apart from food and drink).

The department will hold stakeholder meetings and give presentations to business groups on the proposed pesticides regulations this spring. Plans call for a final proposal for new regulations to be presented to the Cabinet in late 2004. Comments are due by April 23, 2004 and may be sent to the Department of Environment and Conservation, Pesticides Control Section, PO Box 8700, St John's, Nfld A1B 4J6, E-mail The discussion paper may be viewed on the department's Web site,, or requested by calling 709/729-2565. More information is available from Karen Ryan, manager of the pesticides control section, 709/729- 3395.

Finally, under a departmental restructuring recently announced by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, the department has been expanded to become the new Department of Environment and Conservation, with Tom Osborne remaining as Minister. In addition to its environmental protection and assessment mandate, Williams said "the new department will manage water resources, land, wildlife, inland fisheries, parks and natural areas."

The government has also created a new Department of Natural Resources, merging the old departments of Mines and Energy and of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. Williams said the new department will be responsible for maximizing the socio-economic opportunities associated with natural resource development, while ensuring sound stewardship of the resource base.

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