QUALITY OF DRINKING WATER: QUÉBEC SETS THE HIGHEST STANDARDS IN NORTH AMERICA
Québec, June 4, 2001 - The Minister of the Environment, André Boisclair, announced the adoption of the new Regulation respecting the quality of drinking water which establishes standards that are among the safest in North America and positions Québec as a world leader where drinking water quality control is concerned.
"Protecting people's health is a government priority. As the Minister responsible for water issues, my ambition is to offer all Quebeckers, both now and in the future, water that they will drink with the utmost confidence, without any exception. Québec's water is a true source of pride and we must all make the effort to preserve it and ensure its sustainability," Minister Boisclair emphasized.
The Regulation's provisions seek mainly to update the quality standards adopted in 1984 and having repercussions on health, to improve treatment and quality control, to subject all drinking water distribution systems serving more than 20 persons to quality control requirements, and to ensure adequate training of system operators.
The control requirements that must be respected by the 4500 or so waterworks systems subject to the new Regulation depend on the number of persons served, whether or not the water is chlorinated, and on the nature of the system (municipal, institutional, private, tourist facility and tank truck).
Among the main improvements the Regulation introduces is the obligation for waterworks owners to comply with standards for 77 microbiological, physicochemical and radioactive substances, rather than the 46 substances established before. Moreover, control of E.coli bacteria and chlorine by-products has been made compulsory. Minimum sampling frequency for bacteriological control has been increased from twice a year to eight times a month for waterworks in order to periodically check the quality of the water distributed by the operators. Tourist facilities must also submit to this bacteriological control.
"Of course, we have maintained the obligation for persons in charge of the systems to automatically issue notices to boil the water if it contains E.coli bacteria. In this case, they must also inform the Ministère de l’Environnement, the public health board and the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation," Minister Boisclair stated.
The Regulation also requires all systems to disinfect and filter water if it comes from surface water. In Québec, some 300 municipal systems draw water from the St. Lawrence, rivers, lakes or sources without filtering it prior to distribution. Filtration makes possible the elimination of turbidity as well as Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasites, contaminants present in all surface waters but generally not found in groundwater.
The government intends to focus first on systems that need to comply rapidly with the new requirements on surface water filtration and disinfection; however, the majority of Québec's major cities filter and disinfect surface waters before distribution, and thereby already meet the new standards.
New provisions are implemented to certify operators of distribution systems to ensure that they possess the are qualifications required.
The cost of work to be carried out under the new regulatory provisions is estimated at $660 M, $375 M for municipal owners, $55 M for private owners, $75 M for the Government of Canada and $155 M for the government of Québec.
The Infrastructure-Québec program will fund municipalities for a total amount of $160 M, with 50% by the Québec government and 50% by the municipalities. The Canada-Québec Infrastructure Works program will cover $300 M, 25% of wich is paid by Québec, 25% by Canada and 50% by the municipalities.
This first regulation targets the management of distribution systems serving 20 persons or more. It goes hand in hand with a second regulation, the Draft Regulation respecting groundwater tapping.
The Draft Regulation respecting groundwater tapping
The Draft Regulation which will enable preventive intervention will replace, once adopted, the Regulation respecting underground water dating back to 1967.
"Again we have established strict and specific standards to ensure the groundwater tapped is as healthy as possible. Our goal is to prevent any likelihood of groundwater contamination by digging safe new wells and detecting water contamination sources in existing wells," Minister Boisclair stated.
The Draft Regulation, which is soon to be published in the Gazette officielle for consultation, is designed mainly to safeguard groundwaters tapped for human consumption purposes and to regulate tapping of the resource. To that end, it imposes standards for the construction of groundwater tapping works and specifies distance standards from septic systems for isolated dwellings.
Moreover, the Draft Regulation will make compulsory water analyses when building any new tapping works and specify, in addition, which proposed works will be subject to an authorization from the Minister of the Environment, as well as the information and documents required of proponents. It will also make compulsory the delineation of safety perimeters for the protection of intake areas for certain goundwater tapping works. The aim is to make all users, including farmers, manufacturers, municipalities and people, aware of the importance of prevention.
"In short, I am pleased to announce today a first action plan on water for consumption purposes that rests on a thoroughly modern and rigorous regulation that can stand the comparison with the best North America has to offer. This action plan, of course, is predicated on close partnership with the municpalities particularly," Minister Boisclair concluded.