Ontario’s drinking water report: Great news, or a sober warning?

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Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector boasts, “Our strong and consistent performance is great news.” But 35 percent of Ontario’s municipal systems failed at least one water quality test in the last year. Forty percent failed to obtain perfect facility inspection ratings. And 58 percent experienced “adverse water quality incidents.” Such results suggest that Ontario’s municipal systems need work, not praise. Continue reading

Outsourcing: What Makes a Private Water Contract Work?

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For this article in Municipal Water and Sewer Magazine, Peter Kenter interviewed three proponents of private water services, including Environment Probe’s Elizabeth Brubaker, about the features of a well-designed contract. Continue reading

P3 progress report: Momentum building for water and wastewater partnerships

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Recent months have seen several encouraging developments on the water and wastewater front: Saint John, New Brunswick, has decided to seek a private partner to design, build, and finance a new water treatment plant and to operate and maintain it for 30 years; Regina, Saskatchewan, is planning to use a 30-year public-private partnership (P3) to upgrade its aging sewage treatment plant; a federal standing committee has released a report on the effectiveness of P3s in the delivery of public infrastructure; and PPP Canada has released a study on the suitability of P3s for water and wastewater projects. Continue reading

Corrupt water

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Last week’s boil-water advisory in Montreal called attention to a system plagued by under-investment, poor repair, and shaky management. Would privatization – under strict regulation – create a more effective and efficient system? Continue reading

Water Quality Trading in Ontario

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This paper, by Richard McNeil, explores Water Quality Trading (WQT) as a complement to the traditional regulatory approach to reducing water pollution. It examines the theory behind WQT, reviews common practices where trading has been introduced, and identifies principles for effective programs. It presents two Ontario case studies: the South Nation River watershed, where WQT has been a success, and the Lake Simcoe watershed, where WQT is currently being considered. Continue reading

EBI updates Citizens Guide

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EBI has updated a key section of its Citizens Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution. The online guide now includes the latest provincial and federal objectives, guidelines, and standards for water quality, sediment quality, and soil quality. Continue reading

Canadians must start paying more for water: Conference Board

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In its report card on Canada’s environmental performance, the Conference Board of Canada assigns a “C” for water withdrawals, ranking the country 15 out of 16 in the developed world. It attributes Canada’s excessive withdrawals in part to “water pricing that does not promote efficiency.” Continue reading

Pricing missing from Ontario water strategy

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In its new Water Sector Strategy, Ontario aims to promote public-private partnerships for water infrastructure, encourage alternative financing models, nurture the water technology sector, and increase water conservation. But the Strategy is missing a key piece of the puzzle: full-cost pricing. Continue reading

Minister Bradley take note: We can’t be complacent

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West Elgin’s mayor warned against complacency after discovering incompetence and deceit in his municipality’s water distribution system. Ontario’s environment minister should heed the mayor’s warning. Continue reading

Echoes of Walkerton: West Elgin water improperly treated, records falsified, operator jailed

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An Ontario court has fined the Municipality of West Elgin and three of its water distribution system operators a total of $193,125 for failing to maintain and document adequate chlorine levels in drinking water. The court has also sentenced the lead operator to 30 days in jail. Continue reading

BC think-tanks call for conservation-oriented water pricing

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A report from the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives warns of an approaching water crisis and recommends pricing water to encourage its conservation and re-use. Continue reading

Take back the environment!

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In the last year, we have witnessed an unprecedented roll-back of environmental regulation across Canada. Federal and provincial governments alike have reduced their oversight of polluting industries and weakened citizens’ rights to protect themselves and their environment. The systematic weakening of environmental regulation has created a vacuum that needs to be filled. But we don’t simply need new regulations. We need a better process – one that returns environmental protection to affected citizens. Continue reading

Can public utilities be accountable?

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Manitoba regulators have charged Winnipeg for polluting the Red River and for failing to report the pollution. In explaining the decision to prosecute, the province cited the need for accountability. But if the city can pass fines along to taxpayers or water customers, is it really accountable for its errors? Continue reading

Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom

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Adapted from the guest blog below, this op-ed in the National Post throws cold water on the Council of Canadians’ Blue Communities campaign. Essie Solomon argues that municipalities would be ill-advised to ban bottled water sales, reject privately funded and operated water systems, and deem water a human right. Continue reading

The flawed logic behind Blue Communities

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In this guest blog, Essie Solomon argues that municipalities that become Blue Communities do a disservice to their residents and the environment. Continue reading

Ontario’s drinking water: Should you really be confident?

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In his latest report, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector urges readers to have confidence in the quality of their drinking water. But such confidence may be unwarranted. More than a third of Ontario’s municipal systems failed at least one water quality test in the last year. More than a third failed to obtain perfect facility inspection ratings. And almost 60 percent experienced “adverse water quality incidents.” Continue reading

Holding Frackers Accountable for Groundwater Pollution: An Analysis of Canada’s Liability Regimes for Hydraulic Fracturing

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This paper, by Adam Shedletzky, focuses on the legal provisions governing groundwater pollution due to fracking for shale gas. It examines the liability regimes (statutory and common-law) in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. It concludes with recommendations for strengthening the regulatory regime to enhance frackers’ incentives to take care and to ensure that those who are adversely affected by fracking can be “made whole.” Continue reading

Federal and provincial taxpayers to subsidize sewage treatment in Victoria

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The governments of Canada and BC have announced that they will foot almost two-thirds of the bill for a new sewage treatment system for Victoria. Such subsidies are inequitable, inefficient, and unnecessary. Continue reading

Debunking the myth of public-sector accountability

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Those who advocate purely public water and sewage utilities warn that private financing and operation impede transparency, diminish accountability, and undermine government regulation. They have it backwards: Public utilities have repeatedly shown themselves to be un-transparent and un-accountable. Continue reading

Transparency in P3s: disclosure v. confidentiality

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Last week, a legislative committee considering Manitoba’s Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act heard arguments on both the importance of public access to information and the need to protect industry’s confidential information. Continue reading