1. Waterkeeper supports source protection because it will bring sewage operators into compliance with environmental laws, protect water quality and promote the health of our communities.
2. Justice O'Connor's recommendations came from an enhanced decision-making process known as "The Walkerton Inquiry." Lake Ontario Waterkeeper respects the recommendations made by Justice O'Connor, including his position on source protection. We understand that this White Paper is a response to the findings of the Walkerton Inquiry. Waterkeeper's comments on this White Paper are as follows:
Waterkeeper's key concerns with the White Paper
3. Plans fail to force municipalities into compliance
The White Paper indicates that the Source Protection Planning Boards would request municipal support for the plansi, with a quantitative objective of achieving support from 100% of municipalities. Support from local communities is an obvious asset in the planning and implementation process, but Waterkeeper is concerned that some of Lake Ontario's most influential municipalities are also major polluters. For example, St. Catharines, Toronto, Hamilton, and Kingston all fail to meet existing provincial standards for surface water protectionii. The Source Protection Plans should not be contingent on the approval of polluters they plan to manage.
4. Source protection objectives omit protection of surface water
While there are numerous references to surface water throughout the White Paperiii, Appendix 4 fails to include any provisions for the protection of source water in general or the Great Lakes in particular. Given the millions of Ontarians that get their drinking water from the Great Lakes, this appears to be a glaring omission in the White Paper.
5. Evaluating the nuclear risk
The White Paper reminds us that millions of Ontarians get their drinking water from the Great Lakes, one of the largest supplies of freshwater in the world. It also underscores the importance of evaluating threats to this drinking water supply. The risks associated with ongoing water pollution from Ontario's nuclear facilities must be accounted for in this evaluation. Further, the provincial government must reconcile advice from the Ministry of Environment on phasing out risks to Ontarians' drinking water with advice from the Manley Task Force to construct new nuclear facilities in Ontario.
6. "Right" of appeal is restricted
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is concerned that the White Paper may limit the right of appeal to residents in the watershed who made written comments as part of the public consultation processiv. Given that there are approximately 100 new postings on the EBR registry each week, some of which have public consultation periods as short as fifteen days, this "right" of appeal fails to meet appropriate standards of fairness. The fact that a resident failed to notice a posting, failed to understand the document, and/or failed to submit a written comment within a given timeframe should not be taken as evidence that s/he has approved of the Source Protection Plan and waived all rights of appeal.
Waterkeeper requests clarification
7. In addition to the concerns outlined above, Waterkeeper has a number of questions. We would appreciate clarification from the Ministry on the following:
8. The white paper states, "In the assessment phase, [the source water protection plan] requires undertaking a study of the potential sources of contamination, determining how much water is really available for human use in a watershed, and evaluating where that water is vulnerable to contaminationv." Will the plan require a study of current sources of contamination and an evaluation of water that is already contaminated?
9. What is the definition of the word, "threat?" For example, will it mean threat to human health, to water quality, to contamination of tap water, etc?
10. Will the Source Protection Plans require compliance with provincial environmental laws, such as the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Ontario Environmental Protection Act?
11. Will the Source Protection Plans require compliance with federal environmental laws, such as the Fisheries Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act?
12. Will the proposed source water protection legislation make compliance or enforcement of the plans mandatory, or just the drafting of a plan itself?
13. Will the Ontario Water Quality Objectives be used as water quality indicators for the purposes of the proposed source water protection legislation?
14. Will the proposed source water protection legislation, through the act or its regulations, give the force of law to the Ontario Water Quality Objectives, since they are the Province's primary indicators for protecting source water?
15. Will the proposed source water protection legislation give the Source Protection Planning Boards authority to issue orders or undertake any other mandatory abatement activities in order to ensure compliance with the Source Protection Plans?
16. Waterkeeper has some concerns about how water resource sensitivity analysesvi will be conducted on historically contaminated water such as Lake Ontario. Since it is more difficult to assess an ?impact? on polluted receiving waters, how will "impact" be defined?
17. Will the government provide opportunity for public comment on the entire proposed source water protection legislation?
Thank you for your consideration,
Krystyn Tully Executive Director April 12, 2004
iStrategic Policy Branch, Ministry of Environment. White Paper on Watershed-based Source Protection Planning. February 2004: 22.
iiLake Ontario Waterkeeper. A report on Procedure F-5-5 and sewage pollution in Ontario's waterways. January 2004.
iiiSee, for example, pages 6, 7, 9, etc.
ivStrategic Policy Branch, Ministry of Environment. White Paper on Watershed-based Source Protection Planning. February 2004: 24.
vStrategic Policy Branch, Ministry of Environment. White Paper on Watershed-based Source Protection Planning. February 2004: 6.
viStrategic Policy Branch, Ministry of Environment. White Paper on Watershed-based Source Protection Planning. February 2004: Appendix 2, #3.