The Clean Water Act, 2006
In May 2000, residents of Walkerton, Ontario drank tap water that came from their municipal well. More than 2,000 people became seriously ill and seven people died. Their water supply was contaminated.
The tragedy resulted in an extensive inquiry led by Justice Dennis O’Connor. As a result of his findings and recommendations, provincial legislation was introduced and on October 19, 2006 the Clean Water Act, 2006, received Royal Assent. The Act helps protect drinking water at the source, as part of an overall commitment to safeguard human health and the environment. This legislation sets prevention as its fundamental principle. Keeping the sources of our drinking water free of contamination is safer, economical and more effective than cleaning up problems after the fact.
The Act is designed to promote voluntary initiatives, but requires mandatory action where needed.
- Requires local communities to look at existing and potential threats to their drinking water, and to set out and implement the actions necessary to eliminate significant threats.
- Empowers communities to take action to prevent threats from becoming significant.
- Requires public participation on every local source protection plan, which means everyone in the community has an opportunity to contribute to the planning process.
- Requires that all plans and actions are based on sound science.
On July 3, 2007, the Act and its regulations came into effect. The following regulations along with the Act can be reviewed on the Province of Ontario’s e-laws website:
- O.Reg. 231/07 Service of Documents
- O.Reg. 284/07 Source Protection Areas and Regions
- O.Reg. 287/07 General
- O.Reg. 288/07 Source Protection Committees
In addition to the Act and regulations, the Province also released guidance documents to assist source protection authorities in completing the necessary studies. The Technical Rules: Assessment Report dated November 16, 2009 were followed for completion of watershed and threats assessments. A number of other technical bulletins were released by the Province on a variety of topics to interpret and provide clarity on the requirements of the Technical Rules. All of these documents are available on the Ministry of the Environment’s Source Water Protection website.