July 9, 2007

Chief drinking water inspector confirms safety, quality of Ontario supplies in 2005-06 report

The second annual report from Ontario's chief drinking water inspector, Jim Smith, has confirmed the safety and high quality of the province's drinking water. During the 2005-06 reporting period, the report says 99.84% of water quality tests met stringent provincial drinking water standards.

"The drinking water supplied by municipalities in this province is among the safest in the world, but fostering continuous improvement can make it even safer," Smith said, adding, "I am committed to working with municipalities to reach the goal of 100% compliance by all drinking water systems and to ensure that the problems we do find are fixed quickly."

Between April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006, over 750,000 microbiological and chemical water quality tests were reported by municipal residential drinking water systems, which serve four out of five Ontario residents. The report shows that 99.84% of these tests met the provincial drinking water standards.

As well, 99.42% of more than 140,000 microbiological and chemical water quality tests reported by systems serving designated facilities (such as children's camps, daycare centres, schools or health care facilities) met provincial standards, as did 99.45% of over 58,000 microbiological and chemical water quality tests reported by non-municipal year-round residential drinking water systems, i.e privately-owned systems serving residential developments such as trailer parks or private subdivisions with six or more sites or houses.

Overall, the chief inspector concludes that Ontario's drinking water safety net is working. The annual report explains the eight interwoven components of the safety net, including a strong legislative framework and outlines measures to strengthen them in 2005-06. It notes that a key element of this safety net, the Clean Water Act, was passed in October 2006. This legislation provides for source water protection.

New topics in the 2005-06 annual report, not covered in the 2004-05 annual report, are inspection ratings for municipal residential drinking water systems, the top areas for improvement in laboratory practices, drinking water quality comparisons between 2004-05 and 2005-06 data and the Ministry of Environment (MOE)'s compliance with the compliance and enforcement regulation (O Reg 242/05).

The MOE fulfilled all of its responsibilities under this regulation, notes the report and inspected all 706 municipal residential drinking water systems in 2005-06. All systems were assessed against 130 regulatory requirements, with mandatory action taken within 14 days of finding a deficiency. One-third of municipal residential drinking water system inspection ratings achieved 100%, and nine out of 10 achieved 90% or better.

As a result of inspections, the ministry issued 39 orders to 43 municipal residential drinking water systems during this period. Orders were issued to 6.1% of all systems inspected--about half the 2004-05 number. The inspector's report rates the overall operational performance of municipal residential drinking water systems as very good.

In addition, all 57 licensed drinking water testing laboratories in the province underwent at least two inspections. There were 33 convictions of drinking water systems and two convictions of licensed laboratories regulated under O Reg. 170/03 during the 2005-06 period, with a total of $296,400 in fines levied.

Lower inspection ratings do not mean that the drinking water provided by the system is unsafe. It simply indicates that there is room for improvement in certain areas of system operation. The MOE is working with owners and operators of systems that received a lower rating to ensure that they understand what they need to do to achieve full compliance.

The chief inspector's report also outlines the province's requirements for drinking water system operator training and certification. All 11,383 certified operators in Ontario have now passed the required exams and completed continuing training in order to renew their certificates every three years.

The report may be viewed on the Ministry of the Environment Web site, www.ene.gov.on.ca/publications/6055e.pdf.

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