The Clean Water Act, 2006 and Ontario Regulation 287/07 “General” set out the requirements for the preparation, approval and amendments of assessment reports and source protection plans. Assessment reports and source protection plans, prepared by 19 source protection committees for the 38 source protection areas in the province, are currently in effect.
In order to ensure that the assessment reports and source protection plans remain relevant and up to date, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (the ministry) is proposing regulation amendments to O. Reg.287/07 that improve the regulatory framework, address implementation challenges, and increase transparency.
The details of the proposed regulatory amendments are explained below.
A. Minor amendment provisions
Currently, section 51 of regulation 287/07 allows source protection authorities to make typographical and other minor amendments to source protection plans, including the related assessment reports. The types of minor amendments listed in subsection 51(1) include clerical, grammatical or typographical errors, style or presentation changes including numbering and cross-references, references to future events that have occurred, updates to reflect risk assessments that have been accepted by a risk management official, patent errors, or references to persons, places or things, the name of which has changed. Also stipulated in subsection 51(2) is the requirement to publish the amended source protection plan and a notice describing the amendment on the Internet.
The ministry is proposing to make two types of changes to this section of the regulation.
1) The addition of other types of minor changes to the list of permissible minor amendments in subsection 51(1) of the regulation, including:
Amendments to address situations where drinking water systems, individual wells or intakes have ceased to operate and been properly decommissioned and so the intake protection zones or wellhead protection areas need to be removed from or amended in the assessment report and source protection plan.
Amendments to update terminology used in assessment reports and source protection plans to reflect editorial changes made to the Director’s Tables of Drinking Water Threats. These changes would not affect new landowners and would have already been consulted on by the ministry through the Environmental Registry.
2) Given that the proposed changes (outlined above) to subsection 51(1) include situations in which vulnerable areas could be changed, it is important that bodies responsible for the implementation of policies in those areas are made aware of the change. Therefore, the second type of change the ministry is proposing is to subsection 51(2), to improve stakeholder awareness by requiring that, in addition to the current requirement to publish notice of the amendment on the Internet, notice should also be provided to the Director of the Source Protection Programs Branch as well as to any body responsible for implementing policies in the source protection plan that could be affected by the amendment. Furthermore, to ensure that changes are reflected in provincial mapping, the source protection authority must provide the Director with any associated data, including vulnerable area mapping, in a digital format approved by the Director.
These changes allow assessment reports and source protection plans to remain up to date more effectively by removing the need for minor amendments to follow the full amendment procedures. This helps source protection authorities and committees as well as landowners and bodies implementing plan policies. It also improves the awareness of the updates by requiring additional direct notification.
B. Continuous improvement: hydrocarbon pipelines
One of the commitments to the protection of drinking water is the commitment to continuous improvement. Therefore, the ministry is proposing a change to regulation 287/07 to improve the protective framework by addressing an emerging issue and further ensure that sources of drinking water are protected. The ministry has already made other improvements to the technical framework through amendments to the Director’s Technical Rules in March 2017.
Subsection 1.1(1) of the regulation lists the activities that are prescribed for the purpose of the definition of “drinking water threat” in subsection 2(1) of the Clean Water Act. It is proposed that the establishment and operation of a liquid hydrocarbon pipeline be formally added to this list. Source protection committees were also already allowed to identify local activities that pose a risk to sources of drinking water as local threats. Pipelines are already included as a local threat in six source protection plans.
Currently, the Clean Water Act requires significant threat policies to be developed for every area identified in the assessment report as an area where an activity is or would be a significant drinking water threat. Partners and stakeholders identified that this requirement was redundant in portions of intake protection zones or wellhead protection areas where the land was already developed to the extent that particular drinking water threats could never be located there. i.e. there are no pipelines in that area. Therefore, the ministry is also proposing to focus the need for developing source protection policies to areas pipelines occur. Should the situation change in the future, policies to address pipelines would be added through locally initiated amendments or during comprehensive plan reviews and updates.
Policies from the source protection plans that currently include pipelines address the risk through requirements for mapping, emergency planning and spills prevention, integrity testing, as well as consideration of drinking water sources during planning for future pipeline locations. These policies are only legally binding on public bodies. It is expected that similar policies would be included in other plans where pipeline policies will be added. Updates to source protection plans to address pipelines can be made during section 36 plan updates.
Complementary amendments to the Tables of Drinking Water Threats included in the Director’s Technical Rules are also being made to define which protection zones and vulnerability scores that pipelines would be a significant, moderate or low drinking water threat. This is summarized in an attachment available under Additional Information.
C. Safe Drinking Water Act Regulation – see separate EBR Posting #013-1840
The Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 provides for the protection of human health and the prevention of drinking water health hazards through the control and regulation of drinking water systems and drinking water testing.
The ministry is also proposing to develop a regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act to add an additional level of assurance that drinking water is being protected at the source. This regulation would only apply to municipal drinking water systems who are proposing new or expanded drinking water systems in source protection areas (see EBR #013-1840 for details). The regulation would require that municipal council resolutions from all affected municipalities be in place endorsing the delineated vulnerable areas and proposed source protection plan policies prior to an application being made under the Safe Drinking Water Act for a new or an amendment to an existing drinking water works permit for altering drinking water sources (e.g., relocating a surface water intake) or adding sources (e.g., adding one or more intakes or wells). The addition of this regulation ensures that the work required to protect sources of drinking water for new and expanding drinking water systems has been completed before the system can provide water to the public.
Discussion / consultation questions:
Do you agree with the additional minor amendment items proposed to be added to section 51 of O. Reg. 287/07? What other types of amendments should be considered for inclusion in this section? What benefits and challenges do you perceive as a result of these proposed amendments?
What risks/benefits do you perceive related to the proposal to add the establishment and operation of liquid hydrocarbon pipelines to the list of categories of drinking water threats? What kinds of source water protection policy tools do you think should be available to address pipelines or what types of source water protection policy tools should not be available?
What benefits / risks do you perceive related to the proposal to focus source protection plans to include policies on pipelines to areas where pipelines currently exist?
Is there anything else that you wish the Ministry to consider with respect to the proposed changes outlined in this posting?