City councillors legally responsible for clean water under new law ,( from August 2012)

By  | December 6, 2014 | 1 Comment | Filed under: Cambridge's Dirty Drinking Water


Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO REGION — New safe water legislation means city councillors will be legally responsible for problems with the local water supply.

In January, provincial Safe Drinking Water Act legislation goes into place which says city councillors are responsible for providing clean water because they are the owners or operators.

“Up until now the majority of the obligations were being generally applied to staff,” said Eric Hodgins, the region’s acting director of water services. “The liability will change.”

Training has been scheduled at regional headquarters Sept. 19 for officials to learn their responsibilities under the act.

“It worries me that councillors don’t realize how liable we are,” Waterloo Coun. Angela Vieth said. “There’s a lot out there in the science world.

“We can go to our public works staff and they can say everything’s OK, but what if it’s not. That’s all on our shoulders.”

The statutory standard of care legislation is the last in several changes to water operations brought on by the Walkerton inquiry.

Regional Chair Ken Seiling said some of the Walkerton recommendations went too far.

“They’re doing good things but I think that they’ve gone overboard in a few ways,” he said. “It drove up costs considerably for excessive testing.”

Councillors would soon have three main obligations:

•To be responsible for the local water system. There are legal consequences for negligence.

•To be informed. Councillors don’t have to be experts on water but they need to be informed.

•To be vigilant by pursuing quality and not taking drinking water safety for granted.

The region has seen legal consequences before.

In 2009 it was fined $10,000 plus a victim impact charge under the act for failing to comply with a provincial order for a well in Cambridge.

An order was issued in 2003 to locate or close off pipe connections that could allow untreated water to get into the drinking water system.

In 2006, water was released before it was disinfected because the work had not been done. Regional officials realized the error three days later and fixed the problem but didn’t notify the public.

The region faced a tally of about seven charges during that period, with six withdrawn and one guilty plea. The majority of charges alleged infractions at regional wells.

Hodgins said one of the region’s biggest challenges was its 15 different licensed systems. He said it was unique to the province. About 80 per cent of local drinking water comes from wells and 20 per cent from the Grand River.

The region reported 14 incidents of regulatory non-compliance last year and 17 incidents of adverse water quality, according to a March report.

Vieth plans to attend the training session along with Cambridge councillors and other officials from Kitchener and Waterloo and the region.

‘I think that everybody should be required to go to it to protect themselves,” she said. “Look what happened in Walkerton. Everybody needs clean, safe water.”

How they fared:

In its annual report of drinking water, the Ministry of Environment details the percentage of drinking water quality tests municipal water supplies and systems met the standard for.

The averages for 2008-09 are below:

  City of Cambridge 99.97

  City of Kitchener 99.92 per cent

  City of Waterloo 99.91 per cent

  Township of Wilmot 97.78

  Township of Woolwich 100 per cent with files from Record staff



One Response to City councillors legally responsible for clean water under new law ,( from August 2012)

    Bill December 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm

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