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Small Drinking Water Systems
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to have safe drinking water?
Did you know that as of December 1, 2008, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has oversight of small drinking water systems (SDWS) in Ontario? The MOHLTC has prepared an information kit to help you become familiar with the changes to Ontario’s drinking water legislation. Reading the poster How to Ensure your Water is Safe is a good beginning.
How does drinking water become contaminated?
Water can become contaminated with:
Does the water source affect contamination?
If your drinking water comes from a lake, stream, reservoir or surface water, it can become contaminated in a number of ways. Rain water, melting snow and other drainage carry impurities into surface water sources.
Common examples are bacteria and chemicals from farm animal activity, sewage run-off from malfunctioning septic systems or industrial discharges.
Surface water sources are unsafe for drinking, unless the water is filtered and treated to destroy harmful micro-organisms.
If you get your drinking water from a well, contaminants may enter through cracks in the casing, poorly fitted lids or other structural faults. Private wells can become contaminated with bacteria, nitrates or other chemicals if they are close to sources of pollution.
How do I keep my drinking water safe?
PROTECT your drinking water at the source. Identify possible contaminants such as:
MONITOR your drinking water system regularly.
TREAT your water with a disinfection system if lab results show unacceptable levels of contamination. This is especially important for surface water sources.
MAINTAIN your drinking water system.
NOTIFY the public when you have identified a problem with your SDWS, whether it is a poor water sample test result or equipment that is not working properly.
Well water may not require treatment if the well is secure and regular samples show acceptable water quality.
What else should I know about testing my water supply?
Commercial labs licensed by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) are locally available for testing. Labs provide sample bottles and instructions for collecting water. Use only licensed labs for tests.
The sampling requirements for E. coli and total coliforms are provided in O. Reg. 318/08 and O. Reg. 319/08.
How do I understand my test results?
The lab report will provide information about the type and levels of harmful contaminants in your drinking water. It will also identify any contaminants that are higher than the acceptable levels set out in O. Reg. 169/03 (Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards).
What is the new Small Drinking Water Systems (SDWS) Program?
Effective December 1, 2008, small drinking water systems have been transferred from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). They are now governed by two new regulations under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA):
The new program is now administered by local boards of health. Public health inspectors (PHI) will conduct a site-specific risk assessment for every small drinking water system in the province. Based on the assessment, they will determine what owners and operators must do to keep their drinking water safe, and will issue a directive for the system. The directive may include requirements for water testing, treatment options or training. This reflects a customized approach for each small drinking water system depending on the level of risk.
What is a Small Drinking Water System (SDWS)?
If your business or premises makes drinking water available to the public and you do not get your drinking water from a municipal drinking water system, you may be an owner or operator of a small drinking water system. If you are not sure whether your system is affected, contact your local public health unit.
The five categories of small drinking water systems that were transferred from the MOE to the MOHLTC are:
It should be noted that systems serving designated facilities such as children’s camps, health care facilities, social care facilities, schools, universities, colleges or other degree-granting institutions are not considered small drinking water systems and remain under MOE regulation.
What are the regulations that apply to small drinking water systems?
Until November 30, 2008, small drinking water systems were regulated under O. Reg. 252/05 under the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002. Effective December 1, 2008, small drinking water systems are now governed by two new regulations under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA):
The new regulations will work as follows:
Should I do anything different to prepare for my risk assessment under the new SDWS program?
Under the new SDWS program, owners and operators of small drinking water systems will continue to be responsible for keeping the drinking water safe and meeting their regulatory requirements, including routine water sampling. Before a public health inspector arranges the initial site-specific risk assessment, owners and operators should make sure their water sampling history is up-to-date.
What do I need to know about collecting water samples?
The way water samples are collected, stored and transported is important for accurate results. When you collect water samples, remember to:
What should I do if my test results for bacteria are “adverse” or “unacceptable”?
If your test results indicate your drinking water is unsafe, then you must:
How do I know what type of water treatment system to install?
Treatment depends on the type of contamination. The two main treatments are filtration and disinfection. Points you should remember:
Get advice from a water treatment specialist to choose the best ways to make your drinking water safe.
For the best treatment, buy only devices that have been certified and meet industry standards.
For information, visit the Ministry of the Environment website
Where can I find additional information?
In addition, you should become familiar with the procedure documents produced to help you efficiently operate a SDWS:
For general information about well water safety, ask your health unit staff for a copy of:
You may also find additional information on the following Ontario ministry websites:Small Drinking Water Systems (SDWS) Program
Current list of local public health units
You can request that you be added to the mailing list to stay current on small drinking water systems by sending an email to:
|Call the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Safe Drinking Water Coordinator at 416-326-3115|
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