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Ontario's Chief Drinking Water Inspector's 2006-07 Report

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Ontario's Chief Drinking Water Inspector's 2006-07 Report

Ontario's Chief Drinking Water Inspector, Keith West, has presented his annual report for April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007 to Environment Minister John Gerretsen. The report looks at the overall performance of Ontario's drinking water systems.  It has information on the ministry's inspections of municipal residential drinking water systems and licensed drinking water testing laboratories. It also has information on private systems serving residences and those serving facilities such as schools, health and social care facilities and children's camps.

Key results for 2006-2007

  • 99.83 per cent of water quality tests submitted by municipal residential drinking water systems met Ontario drinking water standards. Municipalities conducted more than 520,000 microbiological, chemical and radiological tests.
  • 99.49 per cent of water quality tests submitted by systems serving designated facilities met Ontario drinking water standards. Over 102,000 microbiological and chemical tests were conducted at these systems.
  • 99.40 per cent of water quality tests submitted by non-municipal year-round residential systems met Ontario drinking water standards. These systems serve private subdivisions, condominium or townhouse complexes, apartment buildings, mobile home parks, as well as year round cottage developments and trailer parks. Over 43,000 microbiological and chemical tests were conducted at these systems.

Microbiological and chemical testing

Ontario has stringent, health-based standards for microbiological, chemical and radiological contaminants to protect drinking water quality. As bacterial contamination can pose severe health hazards, Ontario has adopted zero tolerance standards. For example, tests for E. coli must demonstrate that their presence is undetectable. Ontario's standards for chemical contaminants are set at levels where no adverse effects are observed with an additional margin of safety factored in.

Inspecting municipal residential drinking water systems and licensed laboratories:

The ministry inspected all 707 municipal residential drinking water systems in the province. Inspectors assess systems against about 140 regulatory requirements all tailored to the type of drinking water system being inspected. The inspection takes into account local factors such as the drinking water source, the type of system and whether the inspection is detailed or focused.

The ministry took mandatory action within 14 days of finding a deficiency at a municipal system.

The ministry issued 23 orders to 20 municipal residential drinking water systems. An order does not necessarily mean that drinking water is unsafe. Orders are also used to correct situations where there is no direct threat to human health. Examples include the need to improve administrative procedures or to prevent a possible drinking water issue.

The ministry inspected all 57 licensed drinking water testing laboratories in Ontario at least twice in 2006-07. About half the inspections were unannounced. Ten of the inspections responded to public complaints or concerns of ministry staff.

Rating municipal operations

For the second year, the report provides inspection ratings for municipal residential drinking water systems. Inspection ratings are a tool designed to indicate how well the operation of a system is doing against Ontario's inspection framework. The rating offers a snapshot of a system's operation at the time of inspection.

Overall, the operational performance of municipal residential drinking water systems is very good. The majority - 92 per cent - of inspection ratings were 90 per cent or better.

A lower inspection rating does not mean the drinking water from the system is unsafe. It shows areas where the operation of a system can improve. The ministry works with owners and operators of systems that got a lower rating to make sure they know what they need to do to achieve full compliance. 

The inspection ratings help track yearly progress toward the goal of 100 per cent compliance for all systems in the province. This year the number of municipal residential drinking water systems demonstrating 100 per cent compliance increased by seven per cent over 2005-06. Forty per cent of the ratings were 100 per cent.

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