Many tourism businesses with private drinking water systems have finally received their site visits from local health unit inspectors this season. This step marks the transition from the “old” drinking water regulations – what began as Reg. 252 under Ministry of Environment and morphed into Reg. 218 under the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
Many businesses, especially those who did not have treatment systems in place, elected to post their systems as “Untested” and wait for the site inspection to decide on next steps. Posting was fully permitted under 252/318. That changes with the inspection, which places the facility fully under the authority of Reg. 319.
The health inspector performs a “risk assessment” of the system and categorizes it as high, medium or low risk. The risk assessment will determine how often your water needs to be tested. Your track record of test results (if you have one) and your overall system, including documentation and procedures, will influence your risk assessment. A comprehensive overview of how the board of health was advised to issue directives is provided in the SMALL DRINKING WATER SYSTEMS RISK ASSESSMENT DIRECTIVES GUIDENCE DOCUMENT.
The other thing the inspector will do is provide you with a directive of any changes that are required to your system. Reg. 319 is much more open-ended and flexible than previous regulations. It does not automatically permit you to post as untreated/untested, for example, but it does not prohibit posting either. If you do not agree with the approach suggested in the directive, you can appeal it to the local Medical Officer of Health.
You have only 7 days to submit your appeal, so time is of the essence. Your system is expected to comply with accepted standards, so it is unlikely that an appeal would be granted for a non-compliant system. However, there is room for discussion on whether your distribution system requires chlorination, since the guidelines are somewhat open on the minimum number of connections that defines a distribution system that needs chlorine.
Another area for discussion is posting vs. treatment. If you make the case that health is better protected by posting, posting is permitted. For example, a facility on generator that has regular power failures or fluctuations might provide less predictable water safety than a notice by the sink to boil the water before use. If that is the alternative you wish, you need to make your case in appealing the directive.
We need to know what you are hearing from your local health inspector so we can share your experience with others and provide you with specific advice. Please contact us directly or post your experience to the discussion board. The flexibility in the new regulation is bound to create a certain amount of confusion, but sharing our experiences will go a long way to provide direction to the industry.