Ontario Water News

July 2017: Stay Informed – Recent Developments in Policy, Regulations, and Programs

At WaterTAP, we’re closely watching policy, regulatory, and program developments related to Ontario’s water sector. Here are some recent updates that may be relevant to your organization:

Provincial

Asset Management Regulation: As part of the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015, the province is regulating municipal asset management planning. It requires municipalities to create a strategic asset management policy and includes specifications for asset management plans, which include life-cycle cost considerations. Questions and comments will be accepted until July 24. See the Environmental Registry posting for more information.

Sewage Bypass Reporting: In May, the Sewage Bypass Reporting Act, 2017, passed first reading in the Ontario Legislature. The bill would require water treatment facilities to report cases where sewage has been diverted into receiving waters that may be impaired as a result. The reports would be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the information contained in these reports would have to be published by the Ministry within 24 hours of notification.

Ontario Infrastructure Projects Database: The Ontario government website now features a database and map of provincially funded infrastructure projects. You can search the database for projects that have been funded and are either in the planning or construction phase and multiple filters (e.g., keywords) allow you to narrow the list.

Green Bank: Ontario has established a green bank, formally called the Ontario Climate Change Solutions Deployment Corporation. The corporation was created through Ontario Regulation 46/17, which came into force on February 17, 2017. The bank is an element of Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, and its objective is to help homeowners and businesses access and finance energy-efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Proceeds from Ontario’s Cap and Trade system are being used to fund the bank.

Septic System Requirements: On May 11, Bill Mauro,Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, informed all heads of municipal council that the Ministry will not be moving forward on a proposal to implement requirements for regular inspections and mandatory maintenance record-keeping for septic tanks and small-scale treatment units. The communication also states that pump-out requirements for septic tanks will not change. The suggested requirements were one of many Ontario Building Code changes proposed in the first phase of consultations with the Province. Septic tank owners will still be required to pump out their systems when the working capacity is one-third full, as specified by the Building Code.

Land Use Planning and Watersheds: The Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, was introduced in the Ontario Legislature in May. This bill would give communities more influence over their land use planning and would create the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to replace the Ontario Municipal Board with the aim of ensuring access to faster, fairer, and more affordable hearings. It would also modernize the Conservation Authorities Act, 1990, and guide conservation of Ontario’s watersheds.

Water Bottling Fee: Ontario is strengthening groundwater protection with three recent actions related to water bottling. There is a two-year moratorium, ending January 1, 2019, on new and expanded water takings from groundwater by bottling companies. New stricter rules for renewal of existing bottled water permits have been finalized. Also, in August, water bottlers will pay $503.71 for every million litres of groundwater taken.

International

Great Lakes: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Environment and Climate Change Canada jointly published the Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook: Great Lakes Region – June 2017. This quarterly bulletin summarizesthe latest season’s weather and water level conditions, as well as the weather and water level-related impacts over the Great Lakes Basin and the international portion of the St. Lawrence River. The bulletin reports that Lake Ontario’s water level was 82 cm above average, which is the highest since records began in 1918. Environment and Climate Change Canada also jointly published the State of the Great Lakes 2017 Highlights Report with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The report concludes that while progress has been made in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes, invasive species and nutrients are still problematic.

NAFTA: The U.S. Trade Representative has officially notified the U.S. Congress of the Administration its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). There is a required 90-day consultation period in the United States before renegotiation, which means that negotiations could begin as early as August 16. Ontario’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne, followed the announcement with an official statement and referred to NAFTA in her address to delegates of the 10th Annual Conference of the SEUS-CP Alliance. The Ontario Government has been strengthening U.S. state trade relations in past months with New York,  Georgia, and Texas, among other states. Furthermore, the Premier participated in a joint mission of Canada’s Premiers in early June to meet with senior U.S. officials and economic leaders in Washington, D.C.