Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Source Protection Committee approves progress report, documents work protecting local drinking water sources
The Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Drinking Water Source Protection Committee (SPC) has approved the source protection region’s first annual progress report to the Province of Ontario. The progress report documents the achievements that been made, by implementing bodies in the source protection region, to enact policies that add protection to local municipal drinking water sources. The full report can be downloaded at www.sourcewaterinfo.on.ca (1 MB PDF).
The Province of Ontario approved the locally developed source protection plans on January 19, 2015 and the plans took effect on April 1, 2015. The source protection authorities submitted the first annual progress report, on behalf of the source protection region, in April. The progress report documents policy implementation achieved from April 1, 2015, the effective date of the source protection plans, to December 31, 2017.
“This region has been able to add protection to local municipal drinking water sources thanks to the outstanding efforts made by our local municipalities and all our other partners and stakeholders,” said Matt Pearson, Chair of the Source Protection Committee.
The report said that implementation is “progressing well” and is “on target.” The majority of the source protection plan policies have been implemented or are in the progress of being implemented, according to the report.
“Committee members from all sectors, municipalities, staff, and members of the public have all contributed to the development of source protection plans since 2007 and to the progress that has been made since 2015 to put into action the locally developed policies,” said Pearson. “It’s exciting to be at this stage of source protection planning, where policies are now put into action and are adding protection to our municipal drinking water sources.”
Plan policies address 21 activities (such as fuel or chemical storage; among others) that can pose a significant threat to municipal drinking water sources in certain circumstances (for example, in certain quantities and in the most vulnerable locations such as municipal wellhead protection areas).
The progress report says that 77 per cent of policies, to address activities that could pose a significant threat to drinking water, have been implemented. Eighty-eight per cent of policies, to address moderate and low threats to drinking water sources, have been implemented, according to the report.
There have been 65 risk management plans (RMPs) established in the region since plans took effect in 2015. Almost 70 per cent of the estimated number of required risk management plans are in place or are in progress, according to the progress report. There is a 100 per cent compliance rate with the risk management plans established in this source protection region. “People living and working near a municipal well want to keep the water supply safe and clean,” said Pearson. “Our hats are off to the leadership they are showing by reducing risk on their properties and at their work through risk management plans.”
The progress report documents a number of actions taken by municipalities. Local municipalities have processes in place to ensure their day-to-day planning decisions conform with the approved source protection plans. Eighty-five per cent of municipalities have amended, or are in the process of amending, their Official Plan to conform with source protection plans for the region. “It is anticipated that all municipalities will complete their Official Plan update within the five-year timeline stated in the source protection plans for our source protection region,” according to the progress report.
Eighty-five drinking water protection zone signs have been installed in the source protection region. The signs are installed on roads near municipal water sources to alert citizens that their actions in these zones can have an impact on a municipal drinking water source. The signs are an effective way to educate and remind everyone of the need to protect our sources of water.
There are 205 on-site sewage systems (including septic systems), in the ABMV Source Protection Region, that are in the most vulnerable areas around municipal wells and subject to the mandatory re-inspection program under the Ontario Building Code. Ninety-eight per cent of those systems have been inspected in accordance with the Ontario Building Code. Inspection results found the majority (99 per cent) are functioning as designed or carrying out required pump-outs, according to the progress report. Four sites have connected to sanitary sewer and decommissioned the on-site septic system.
Together, the Maitland Valley and Ausable Bayfield source protection areas have a combined population of 105,000 people and cover an area of about 5,690 square kilometres. There are six counties and 24 lower-tier municipalities entirely or partly within the source protection region.
The Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Drinking Water Source Protection Committee is a 15-member committee in addition to the Chair. The committee was Ontario’s first SPC. The members have worked with the public since 2007 to create local terms of reference, assessment reports, and source protection plans. This work is made possible by the Ontario Clean Water Act, 2006.
There are four types of vulnerable areas. They are wellhead protection areas (zones of protection around municipal wells, to protect groundwater); surface water intake protection zones (in this region, around Lake Huron intakes); significant groundwater recharge areas; and highly vulnerable aquifers. Activities in vulnerable areas are assessed as low, moderate or significant threats to municipal drinking water sources. In this region, significant threats to drinking water are found only in wellhead protection area zones A, B, and C. Plan policies in those relatively small areas reduce risk by using tools ranging from education and outreach, to risk management plans, to restricted land uses, or prohibition of some activities in some cases.
To find out about wellhead protection areas, assessment reports, and source protection plans, visit sourcewaterinfo.on.ca.