Advisory of the Day
TORONTO, ON: PRIVATE WATER SYSTEMS IN TORONTO: ARE THEY BEING MONITORED? ON
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Toronto has long been lauded for the quality of its drinking water. In 2007 the city placed third in a North America wide blind taste testing competition. According to a representative from City of Toronto Water however, they're only responsible for the quality of its drinking water up until the property line. So, for large private organizations like schools, hospitals and condos which have their own private water systems, there is some grey area as to who ensures the high quality is maintained
In Toronto's latest (2015) Sewers and Water Supply Bylaw Compliance and Enforcement Annual Report, it is noted that three convictions were made under the Water Supply By-law resulting in $4,500 in fines. As of the time of this article's publication however, requests for clarification on what those convictions were for and who they were levied against have been unreturned.
The Ontario Ministry of Environment does provide very detailed guidelines for drinking water systems, the latest of which was published in 2008. These cater to the engineers that design these systems, the ministry engineers who are responsible for reviewing and approving those designs and the owners of the systems of themselves, who are tasked with keeping them running smoothly. Every owner and operator of a drinking water system must ensure that:
the system's water meets Ontario's Drinking Water Quality Standards
anyone who operates or works on their drinking water system is properly trained and certified
Drinking water tests are done by licensed, accredited laboratories
adverse test results are reported to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the local medical officer of health
A number of factors come into play to ensure the drinking water provided by City of Toronto is of a high quality. First and foremost, the source from which the water is gathered from is very close. Pipes draw water from one to three miles out in Lake Ontario at a depth of around 15 metres. This ensures any onshore incidents like heavy rainfall don't interfere with the quality. The city's Water Control Unit conducts over 20,000 bacteriological tests at one of four major treatment plants. 15,000 additional tests are done on water that's left the plants, in order to ensure no contamination exists in the infrastructure that's carrying it. They test for over 300 chemicals, which is significantly more than the 78 required by the province.
Issues can arise however, once the water leaves the Toronto infrastructure and enters a large private system like a hospital, school or condo. It's up to private water engineers to ensure the infrastructure is being kept up to date and working. For new builds that have to be vetted by the provincial ministry there is less chance of major contamination. However, older buildings that rely on aging infrastructure that use materials like lead, the chance grows considerably.
More details on this story are forthcoming.
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