Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 10 - Evidence - June 10, 2008

OTTAWA, Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to which was referred Bill S- 206, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (clean drinking water), met this day at 5:42 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Tommy Banks (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to the meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. I will introduce the members present: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, deputy chair of the committee, from Quebec; Senator Willie Adams, from Nunavut; Senator Grant Mitchell, from Alberta; Senator Mira Spivak, from Manitoba; Senator Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, from New Brunswick; and Senator Bert Brown, from Alberta.

Bill S-206 seeks to amend the Food and Drugs Act to include water from a community water system, among other places, as a food that is subject to regulation under the Food and Drugs Act.

Appearing before us today from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador are the Honourable Charlene Johnson, Minister of Environment and Conservation. Accompanying the minister are Mr. Bruce Hollett, Deputy Minister; Mr. Bill Parrott, Assistant Deputy Minister; and Mr. Martin Goebel, Director, Water Resources Management.

Minister Johnson, please proceed.

Hon. Charlene Johnson, M.L.A., Minister of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: Honourable senators, on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, I would like to thank the committee for inviting me to make a presentation on Bill S-206. My staff have been introduced, but I would like to point out that Mr. Goebel is the chair of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water for the third consecutive term. If you have technical questions later, he is the person to ask.

Please let me begin by saying that drinking water safety is a priority for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Drinking water safety is one of the most complex issues facing all levels of government today. Since the wake-up call from the Walkerton disaster in May 2000, my province, like all others, has made many significant strides to ensure safe, clean and secure drinking water for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. While we do have our challenges, we have put into place many new checks and balances, and, most importantly, we have standards, regulatory tools and policies that will allow us to continue to improve the safety of our public water supplies in a manner that meets our needs.

Bill S-206, as we understand it, is an amendment to define drinking water, even if it is delivered through a distribution system, as a food. Hence, as a food, it would be subject to quality standards and inspections under federal law. We believe that we, as a province, already have sufficient and much more appropriate mechanisms of ensuring drinking water quality. I would like to focus my presentation on this regulatory aspect of drinking water safety for which my department is responsible in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We all recognize that the funding for the capital costs and operation and maintenance of water systems is immense, but I assume that Bill S-206 is strictly regulatory and does not address the cost of any regulatory change. As I mentioned, Walkerton was a national wake-up call, so, in May 2001, Newfoundland and Labrador published a comprehensive report on drinking water safety appropriately entitled Source to Tap. The report provided a high level of detail about the safety of drinking water in the province and laid out a plan to enhance public water supplies on multiple levels.

This multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water evolved into the Newfoundland and Labrador Multi-Barrier Strategic Action Plan. As you know, the multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water is promoted by Health Canada, whereby risks to drinking water safety are eliminated or minimized at every step as water moves through systems from source to tap. Specifically, it includes source water protection, effective water treatment and maintenance of water quality in the distribution systems. As well, the strategy includes applying regulatory inspection and water-quality monitoring and reporting in order to be able to react to issues brought about by natural conditions of flood or drought, breakdowns, accidents and other risks.

The first barrier in the multi-barrier strategic action plan is source water protection. The vast majority of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador have the unique and fortunate situation that they draw their water supply from pristine watersheds that are largely free from urbanization or industrial development. Watershed protection legislation was first enacted in 1974 and allows the province to strictly regulate future activities in the watershed area. Communities are empowered to have control over their water supplies even if the watershed is not within their municipal boundaries. In 2004, the Water Resources Act was proclaimed and added the ability to protect wellheads in a similar manner. Therefore, to date we have 318 water supply sources that come under our watershed protection regulations. In turn, this means that about 92 per cent of the service population receives its water from a protected source.

Any development such as mining, forestry, agriculture, cottage development or other activities in a protected water supply area is subject to permits with strict terms and conditions that protect the quantity and quality of water. In a few watersheds, where significant development has already taken place, we have established watershed management committees in order to proactively protect the area for water supply purposes. Documents that might be of interest to your committee include our policy directive entitled ``Policy for Land and Water Related Developments in Protected Public Water Supply Areas'' and a companion document entitled ``Management of Protected Water Supply Areas.'' Recently, we prepared a new municipal guide to developing watershed management plans. All of these documents, along with other public information, are posted on our website for public access. Newfoundland and Labrador is able to effectively protect its watersheds, and therefore we make watershed protection a cornerstone of our multi-barrier strategic approach. This brings me to the next level of the multi-barrier approach — water treatment.

Perhaps because of our historic reliance on watershed protection, our water treatment systems in general have not reached the same level of utilization as other parts of Canada. There are only 19 of what might be considered conventional water treatment plants in the province. In addition, there are 84 systems with some form of special treatment, such as UV filtration, arsenic removal or other chemical removal. By far the most common treatment is simple chlorination, which is applied to 453 public water systems in the province. The biggest challenge in our province is to have the municipalities, especially small communities, keep these aging systems operating. Just to complete the picture, 223 communities do not have any water system at all, and those people rely on their private wells for water supply.

The regulation of water systems comes under the Water Resources Act. New systems require a permit to construct and existing systems require a permit to operate. These permits, while enforceable under the act, are not intended to be used for punitive purposes. Instead, they are customized for each particular system and offer guidance and objectives that communities should strive to comply with or achieve.

Many of our small rural communities are showing population declines and declines in their tax base. A local approach between provincial and municipal governments can respond appropriately to those changing circumstances. Bill S-206, with the heavy-handed regulatory approach, would not complement our efforts and could potentially undermine them. In other words, we prefer the carrot approach rather than the stick approach.

The next area is the distribution system. This part of the physical water system is important for safe drinking water because it is here that re-contamination of the water can occur before it reaches the consumer's tap. It is also the most complex part of the system with miles of pipe and valves, fire hydrants and storage tanks. This infrastructure is often in close proximity to the main source of contamination, the sewer system.

Proper operation and maintenance is crucial. Again, it is here that my department is on top of this issue, initially through permits to construct and subsequently through permits to operate. The terms and conditions of those permits mirror our guidelines for the design, construction and operation of water and sewage systems. These guidelines are current, having been completed in December 2005, and are posted on our website.

In our view, there is very little that the proposed Bill S-206 could add to improve our guidelines, which already have about 500 pages of detailed and specific requirements covering every single aspect of the design and operation of water systems. However, these three physical barriers — the watershed, the treatment system and the distribution system — by themselves are not the end of the story as far as we are concerned.

As we learned from Walkerton, there are two other components critical to drinking water safety: the operator and the regulator. I will briefly talk about both. In terms of the operators, we believe the key aspect relative to drinking water safety is appropriate training with a focus on training for job competency. Newfoundland and Labrador has taken a unique approach to this. My department offers training in a traditional classroom program, which is fairly standard. Additionally, we have developed mobile training units that take the training program to the doorstep of the operators. This field training has been copied by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre. As well, we have been contacted recently by West Virginia to have a look at what we do.

The advantage is that for small systems, operators who might not have all basic educational requirements or whose other duties might prevent them from availing of training resources elsewhere can receive training on their own equipment. Thus, they can be trained in chlorination, valve maintenance, water testing and many other aspects of their responsibilities. This particular aspect has been hugely successful.

The next area is an annual provincial workshop where operators can receive further and formal training and contact hours. In Newfoundland and Labrador, operator certification is gradually being phased in, but is not yet mandatory. However, I am proud to say that a measure of success of our program is that where operators voluntarily attempt to obtain the appropriate level of certification, their examination pass rate is well above the average in all certification categories. The seminar is free of charge and government works with municipalities to subsidize the cost of their employees' travel.

The last, but perhaps the most important, area of our presentation today concerns the topic of regulatory oversight. On May 15, John Cooper of Health Canada provided evidence to this committee about the application of the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. He correctly pointed out that 10 jurisdictions use the guidelines directly through legislation or regulations while 3, including Newfoundland and Labrador, use them in other ways.

In my province, we use them as our own standards. This is a unique approach, and we are the only province in Canada that does this. Rather than having legislation compelling public water supplies to monitor, test and report water quality to the regulator, we perform this vital task ourselves in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are three advantages to this approach. First, we achieve 100 per cent coverage. We know that all public water supplies are being routinely tested in accordance with the recommended frequency of the guidelines. However, because we use a provincial laboratory for the bacteriological testing and an accredited contract laboratory for chemical testing, we know that quality control and quality assurance is being carried out correctly. Second, we have 100 per cent oversight on all water systems. We receive test results directly from our lab in a single quality-controlled database, meaning we are able to take action immediately to mitigate the risk.

The third advantage is reporting efficiency. It is a very simple matter for us to post on our website the results of our water testing, and we do that. In addition to the raw results, we also provide a chemical water quality report and, perhaps most importantly, recommendations to the town concerned about how to correct any deficiencies. We also provide the communities with a comprehensive annual report. Finally, we publish an annual provincial drinking water safety report. I have a copy here today if any of you would like it following this presentation.

On April 17 in his presentation to this committee, Senator Grafstein spoke about the right of people to be aware of the quality of their drinking water. In Newfoundland and Labrador, people are provided with that information on several levels.

Before I conclude, I would like to address the issue of boil-water advisories. This committee has already been made aware of the recent report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about the 1,766 boil-water advisories in place across Canada. The report lists 228 for Newfoundland and Labrador, which is almost perfectly accurate except by one account there were actually 227. Our provincial boil-water advisories are posted on the website as they are issued. Therefore, it is entirely possible the count changed during the course of the day. However, my real concern is that the report does not capture the true picture of what these boil-water advisories are about or what they mean in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A review of the reasons for our boil-water advisories shows that less than 10 per cent are for evidence of bacteriological contamination as found by our testing program. Most of those were actually only total coliform counts or were issued because an initial failed test could not be repeated in the required time frame. Most boil-water advisories, 34 per cent, were issued because there is a risk in terms of inadequate chlorination residuals, and about 40 per cent were due to problems with no treatment or failure to operate.

These two categories represent risks on the second or third barrier of the multi-barrier approach I spoke of earlier. About 15 per cent of the boil-water advisories are issued due to distribution-system risks that occur when pipes are exposed to pressure loss due to construction, repair or routine maintenance. This category of boil-water advisory is actually increasing. It is due entirely to the fact that we are getting our training messages through to the operators to issue such advisories when there is a risk of system contamination.

In each of the six years since we have been publicly posting all our boil-water advisories — we are the first jurisdiction in Canada to do this — there has not been a single boil-water order issued in our province. A boil-water order would indicate a very serious problem of an actual water-borne disease outbreak as opposed to an advisory, which indicates a risk and is intended to be one of the multi-barriers to prevent such an occurrence.

Let me conclude by restating that we are all striving for the highest quality drinking water for Canadians. I hope my presentation demonstrates that through provincial control and regulations, we have covered all areas of drinking water safety that this bill could hope to achieve. We are very satisfied with the way Health Canada provides the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, and we fully subscribe to them. Newfoundland and Labrador currently chairs the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water.

We have an excellent and fully cooperative relationship with Health Canada in the area of drinking water safety. One of the reasons for this is largely because we are respected for our jurisdictional mandate, and we can apply those valuable guidelines in a manner that fits our provincial circumstances.

As I have tried to outline to this committee, we have adopted unique approaches that work in our jurisdiction. Bill S-206 would not allow us to continue to work toward our goal in our own way. In Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am sure in other provinces as well, the provincial government working with municipalities is best placed to understand local issues and needs and deliver quality drinking water to Canadians.

In small communities throughout Canada, municipal leaders and workers are often volunteers who are dedicated to the betterment of their communities. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have developed processes, standards and regulations for drinking water to work cooperatively and effectively with those communities in delivering and improving drinking water quality. Imposing new regulations and penalties on a system that already works is not needed and, in fact, risks undermining the community efforts so vital to the system.

Thank you again for allowing me this valuable opportunity to speak to you. I would be pleased to answer any of the questions you may have.

The Chair: Would any of your colleagues like to speak before we begin the questions, or should we simply move into the discussion?

Ms. Johnson: We can move to the discussion.

The Chair: I would like to point out to our guests that we have been joined by Senator Cochrane from Newfoundland and Labrador and Senator Grafstein, the author and sponsor of this bill.

Senator Mitchell: You are undoubtedly busy, but it is good for us that you choose to find the time to appear.

How do you deal with native communities? Do you take direct responsibility for that, or do you defer to the federal government? Do you cooperate or collaborate?

Ms. Johnson: We do all of the water-quality testing and monitoring for native communities as well.

Martin Goebel, Director, Water Resources Management, Ministry of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: We provide the same services that we provide to any municipality in that regard.

Senator Mitchell: Does the federal government pay for it, or is it assumed into your provincial budget?

Mr. Goebel: We do the water-quality testing and monitoring as part of our budget. It is simply absorbed. We also do the training that they may need.

Ms. Johnson: It all comes under our provincial budget.

Senator Mitchell: Do you have water metres in your larger centres?

Ms. Johnson: No. There is talk of a pilot project in St. John's, but that would be under the city's jurisdiction. Currently, there are none.

Senator Mitchell: Are there no water shortages experienced? You basically have so much water in the province.

Ms. Johnson: During some dry periods over the summer, there may be warnings to reduce watering the lawn, washing cars, et cetera. However, overall we have a vast supply.

Senator Mitchell: There must be areas in the far north of Newfoundland and Labrador that have permafrost. Are there native or other communities that live in those areas?

We talked briefly before we started about climate change. This committee has just been in the Northwest Territories and Yukon. They are experiencing specific impacts of climate change, one of which is the melting permafrost. One of the points made is the concern that when permafrost melts, it releases heavy metals such as mercury. Have you noted that, or are you concerned about it?

Ms. Johnson: We have not done much work around that climate change issue. We have been reviewing what other jurisdictions have done. Some people say that with climate change, there may be water shortages and, therefore, the price of water will go up in terms of bottled water.

The predictions for our province are that precipitation will increase, so we will have more water, but we have not looked in depth into issues around heavy metals. In this past budget, we did announce a drinking water strategy for the first time, solely for drinking water, so that would address any issues such as heavy metals. It would address concerns that we have right now with boil-water advisories, trihalomethanes — THMs — arsenic, et cetera. That is a $21-million fund over three years that will strictly go to providing clean drinking water for residents of the province.

Senator Mitchell: Do you collaborate with the federal government in any way beyond using the guidelines put out by Health Canada?

Ms. Johnson: We have a good relationship with Health Canada.

Mr. Goebel: Our collaborative efforts are with respect to drinking water issues that stem from guidelines, so we collaborate in terms of exchanging data, sharing data, developing other guidelines, best approaches, small communities, small water systems seminars and workshops, and we connect with documents. We collaborate in all areas where Health Canada is active with drinking water in that way.

Senator Mitchell: You mentioned that you have watershed protection legislation. Do you map your watersheds? Have you done an inventory of aquifers? You do not have a lot of drilling onshore, so you do not have to worry about contaminating wells as we do in Alberta.

Ms. Johnson: We do not have a lot of industrial activities or urbanization. Guidelines are in place for forestry and mining activities, and we have a very stringent environmental assessment process, so those issues would be addressed as well.

The Chair: Did you say, in answer to Senator Mitchell's question, that you have mapped the aquifers in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Mr. Goebel: We have extensive groundwater mapping, but I think the question was also about watersheds. We have extensive maps. In fact, they are publicly available, for instance, on Google Earth. You can download the application and see every single watershed we have.

The Chair: Does that include aquifers?

Mr. Goebel: That includes wellheads that are protected. We have surface water supplies that are protected and also well points or wellheads. They are all mapped.

The Chair: Is there a map of the aquifers in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Mr. Goebel: Some older studies have geological and groundwater mapping in regions of the province. There are a few blank spots where no one is living, but we have most of the populated areas mapped.

The Chair: We are asking because one of the concerns of this committee is that we do not have a complete aquifer map in Canada, so no one knows where the water is in other parts.

Senator Trenholme Counsell: I was interested in your reply about the First Nations communities. I gather you have not had a problem in Newfoundland and Labrador in six years because you mentioned the six years' data.

I am from New Brunswick, and we have a lot of very small communities and rural areas, as you do. We call them ``local service districts.'' I talk to people and observe things, and I listen. I am concerned about the citizens' responsibility, or lack thereof, that they demonstrate toward water, septic tanks and the proper insulation of septic tanks and whether our government is conscientious and dedicated enough to the inspection of this.

To what extent do you monitor the drinking water and cottage areas of rural Newfoundland and Labrador? Maybe you feel that that is outside of your jurisdiction, but I am interested in the rural situation with regard to drinking water contamination issues.

Ms. Johnson: To your first point about the First Nations community, currently, of the three First Nations communities for which we do the water quality testing and monitoring, none of them have boil-water advisories in place.

In terms of the rural parts of the province, a lot of them are municipalities or local service districts in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador as well. We are the only province in Canada that does the water quality monitoring. Last year alone, we did 19,000 bacteriological tests and 2,800 chemical tests throughout the province, but many of them, of course, are rural.

We would take that information, those tests, have them run in our lab in the province, so a high degree of quality assurance is built into that, and we report directly to the municipalities or the local service districts.

We have a tremendous relationship with them. We pick up the phone or send a letter if any of the results that come back might cause alarm. Immediately, we are on that.

We also work closely with municipalities and local service districts in terms of operator training and certification, and as I mentioned in my remarks, every year we hold a training session — I attended it this year. Over 300 people, volunteer water quality operators, in the province come together at this event to learn a tremendous amount of information. We put it on in conjunction with Municipal Affairs; it is free of charge to them because we feel we need to arm them with the necessary information. It is preventative maintenance, namely, arming them with an important knowledge base.

They struggle with costs, certainly, because these are small communities. Numbers are declining in certain parts of the province, so infrastructure costs are a challenge. We have been working with them. Last year, Municipal Affairs provided $13.5 million for infrastructure, as I mentioned earlier. We have announced the drinking water strategy for this year, so in terms of the funding piece, we are moving along well in that as well. We have a wonderful relationship with our municipalities and local service districts.

Senator Trenholme Counsell: I was thinking more of the areas outside the municipalities. Is it an individual responsibility to ensure that a proper septic tank is installed and maintained? There would be provincial regulations about that, of course. How do you enforce those regulations? Do you do spot checking? What is your system? Is it an honour system?

Ms. Johnson: Regulations are in place, and those would be administered through our Department of Government Services, through our environmental health officers. About 24 staff go around the province and ensure that things are done in a proper manner.

The responsibility for our drinking water is shared between ourselves, the Department of Government Services and the Department of Health and Community Services, and we all work closely together on that. However, that particular aspect to which you referred is carried out through the Department of Government Services.

Senator Trenholme Counsell: Are you vigilant about lakes and cottages? Are you very strict about that, too?

Ms. Johnson: Absolutely; in some places where there is development around watersheds, a watershed plan is put in place. Watershed committees are also held in those particular communities.

Mr. Goebel: With respect to the developments to which you referred that have the potential for a problem with a septic system, for example, before a cottage is in place, they have to apply for a permit to install their septic system. The area is assessed for cottage-carrying capacities, namely, whether the lake can handle the capacity, and, again, as the minister mentioned, the Department of Government Services enforces those regulations.

Senator Trenholme Counsell: This would apply to your small rural communities where people have lived forever and have other means of waste disposal. I do not know how long it has been, but it has been several decades that you have had the regulations for septic tanks, et cetera.

How far back would that go for rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

Ms. Johnson: It goes back a long time.

Bill Parrott, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: It goes back to the mid-1970s.

Senator Nolin: In preparing for this afternoon's testimony, have you consulted with other members of your national committee?

Mr. Goebel: I have consulted with the chair of the committee, Dr. John Cooper. We have discussed this on several occasions.

Senator Nolin: Which province is he from?

Mr. Goebel: He is the director of the Water, Air and Climate Change Bureau of Health Canada. I have discussed this with several of my colleagues on the committee, as well.

Senator Nolin: Without falling into the trap of hearsay, what conclusions of those consultations can you share with us?

Mr. Goebel: I think the other provinces should speak for themselves. However, I would be honest in saying that there are concerns, if I can leave it at that.

Senator Nolin: You will have to explain the word ``concerns.''

Mr. Goebel: We have questions about how this would work on a national basis. They are similar to the concerns our minister spoke about for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Senator Nolin: Are you concerned because you are already doing that, or are you concerned about how it will be articulated at the federal level? Please be more precise on that.

Mr. Goebel: All the provinces at the drinking water committee that I chair all work very diligently. We meet twice a year. We sit down and work on the bacteriological and chemical guidelines, and we look at the list of priorities that must be assessed. Health Canada will then take the committee's recommendations and assess those chemicals and provide the science and the background that we need as a committee to formulate a guideline. Ultimately, we make that guideline a published document, and then it is in effect.

The jurisdictions then take those guidelines and apply them in accordance with their own mandates. Some provinces apply them as a regulation. Others, such as ourselves, apply them as a standard that we strive to achieve while not necessarily being in our regulations. As the minister pointed out, in Newfoundland and Labrador, we do our own testing, sampling and reporting. Other jurisdictions require municipalities to do that.

Everyone applies the drinking water quality guidelines in their own way as they see fit and with which they are comfortable. Each jurisdiction has something in place with which they feel comfortable.

Senator Adams: I am closely related to people living in Labrador; some are Inuit. I was up there, as was the premier, for the celebrations of the Nunavut land claim in Labrador.

I think Sheshatsheits has a well, or they have a pipeline for water delivery. How does it work in some of the Innu communities in Labrador?

Mr. Goebel: I think you are right, senator. They would likely have a well. I know Sheshatsheits has a well; Natuashish has a well; Conne River uses a surface water source; and the Black Tickle community uses a lake. It varies according to the conditions of the geography and what is available to them.

Senator Adams: Nunavut Inuit cannot do that. There is summer frost. Right now, only three communities in Nunavut have such systems. Where I live in Rankin Inlet, we have a water and sewage system.

A sewer system is discharging in Hudson Bay. The Nunavut capital, Iqaluit, has a water and sewer system. One just came in a couple of days ago right at the top of the High Arctic, in Resolute Bay. The government put in more money because of Arctic sovereignty.

In the mean time, I see that in some of the communities, they do not drink tap water. When I come home, we have local radio and someone goes up the river to get water. I have an empty tank from making tea and drinking water because I do not know how the system works.

Maybe Labrador has better water than Nunavut. Most of them are small communities. They have a reservoir built by the government, and we have a sewage lagoon in the community.

We just found out this year that three communities are concerned about snow geese landing in the reservoir. Some people sometimes eat snow geese, but the season opens in September, so they cannot catch them when they come in the spring. In Baker Lake, we have had caribou since last winter. They were drinking from the overflow of the sewage lagoon.

I know how much policy you have on drinking water. Something always comes up. Not only do you have policy but also the boiling water committee. The sewage tank started overflowing and the animals get in there, and they have no laws to do anything.

Close to Hudson Bay, caribou are eating around the garbage dump. We want to know if you have a policy so that we can put up a fence and if you have money to do it right away; some people say that we have no money. Right now, we say that we cannot move the sewage lagoon. We will have to fence it over top and ensure that ducks do not land there in the meantime. Those are the issues that we are dealing with.

Do you have policies for those types of issues with the drinking water?

Ms. Johnson: We do, and, as you point out, there are many challenges when it comes to drinking water. Some are controllable and some are not. Our premier said last year before Christmas, that one of his priorities for 2008 was to ensure that people of the province could have good drinking water.

One of the components of the drinking water strategy was looking at SaskWater in Saskatchewan. I am not sure if it would work for your communities. One of the components is to look at potable water dispensing units. You are probably familiar with them. I am not sure if they would work with your geography, topography, permafrost and so on.

We saw it as a tremendous opportunity. That would be in a more controlled environment. Snow geese and so forth would be kept out of that. The other challenge in our province is that many communities do not chlorinate their water because they do not like the taste of it. Certainly, these potable drinking units would eliminate that. Mr. Goebel, please add to that. I know your challenges are unique, as they are in other parts of the province. In our review of other jurisdictions, we liked what we saw in this system and are willing to give it a try with a drinking water strategy.

Mr. Goebel: You have highlighted many concerns that many northern communities or small communities face. The key to it in our province, as the minister has alluded to, is to deal with it through the multi-barrier strategic action plan with watershed protection, water treatment and operator training to address those concerns and threats to water systems.

Senator Adams: It is difficult for us, especially now with more and more bottled water coming into the communities, which is expensive. It is has to be flown in, like most things we get, and because it is heavy, it adds to the cost. There is not enough to last from one sea lift to the next. People are wondering why they have to pay for water.

The North is supposed to have the best water in Canada, but people have to buy bottled water because they do not trust the tap water, and it has too much chlorine so people do not drink it. People go to the co-op stores, but they do not want to buy it as it is not as good as the water from the lakes and rivers. Water coming in by air lift costs a lot. A quart of milk is around $13 or $14. People cannot drink water or milk because they cannot afford it.

What is the best system for drinking water?

Even if this bill passes, people will say that they will simply have to pay more for water. I do not use the system for drinking water; I buy water. The only time we worry about it is when someone gets sick from it.

Ms. Johnson: Certainly, water is the source of life. We need it to sustain ourselves. You might want to get in touch with staff to discuss the possibility of the potable water drinking units as a solution for your area. Six communities in the province are doing it right now, and it is receiving tremendous positive feedback. Certainly, you should to speak to our department on it to know whether it might be a workable solution for your region.

Senator Spivak: What is the population of Newfoundland and Labrador?

Ms. Johnson: It is about 500,000 people.

Senator Spivak: It is about the size of my city — a little less. You present a glowing picture, and I like the approach of the multi-barrier system. Could you elaborate further on how you deal with the forestry and mining industries and salmon farming? Are there salmon farms on the river, or are they all on the ocean? Salmon farming can require the use of many pesticides.

Ms. Johnson: Forestry and mining fall under our environmental assessment process and any project, such as aquaculture development, would come under our environmental assessment process. Any possible negative aspects would be raised and dealt with at that point. No permits would be issued until we were satisfied that the environment is protected.

With respect to forestry and mining, in addition to the environmental assessment process, forestry guidelines are in place that forestry incorporates into their five-year operating plan. They work closely with our department, and the same is true for the mining industry.

There are no salmon farms in watershed areas in our province.

Senator Spivak: Are they on the rivers or the ocean?

Ms. Johnson: The ones that I am aware of are on the ocean.

Senator Spivak: My experience with environmental assessment out West is that it is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. I understand you have all those policies. How strict are you? Do you cancel logging or mining operations if they will interfere with watershed protection? Have you rejected companies that want to log in areas where you do not think they should? What is the rate of acceptances and rejections in terms of protected watersheds?

Ms. Johnson: Our environmental assessment process is stringent and provides the opportunity for public input along every aspect of the process when a project is registered. Following a review of registration and comments from people over 30 days, it can be determined that further review is necessary in terms of an environmental preview report, EPR, or an environmental impact statement, EIS, with more opportunity for public input. Certainly, some developments have been cancelled, moved or altered because there are buffers in place for this. As you know, the ultimate goal of the environmental assessment process is to ensure that the biophysical aspects of an environment are protected. As Minister of the Environment, that is my role, which I take seriously.

Senator Spivak: Can you say categorically that in Newfoundland and Labrador today, no watersheds are being encroached upon by industrial activity?

Ms. Johnson: The environmental assessment process is stringent, and I am not aware of any right now where they are encroaching on a watershed. The municipalities are involved in this as well. They have watershed plans and provide input during an environmental assessment process when that might be the case; and we hear them loud and clear.

Senator Spivak: Since you are so far ahead of the rest of Canada, have you explored methods other than the addition of chlorine to the water? I believe that there is an oxygen method as well as others. Have you explored any of those?

Ms. Johnson: Yes, we have done that. As I mentioned earlier, one of the components of our drinking water strategy is the potable water dispensing units, which utilize UV. Osmosis could be another technique. Certainly, one of the reasons we have so many boil-water advisories is that people would rather boil their water than have the taste of chlorine. We recognize that, and this is one solution. These potable water drinking units would eliminate that taste and odour that comes along with chlorine because of the UV filtration.

Senator Spivak: Do you have any qualms about bottled water and the type of bottles that they use? Do you have companies that draw water from your rivers and then bottle it?

Mr. Goebel: Yes, we do.

Senator Spivak: Do they get it for free, or do you charge them?

Mr. Goebel: We charge them for a licence in order to take the water.

Senator Spivak: Can they then take all the water they want?

Mr. Goebel: That is correct, yes.

Senator Spivak: You do not seem to have an apprehension about climate change. As you mentioned, climate change might give you more water.

Ms. Johnson: It might; that is the prediction for our province.

Senator Spivak: What about the regulations as to what type of bottles they use? Lately, there has been all this talk about bisphenol A, BPA.

Senator Nolin: That is another bill.

The Chair: Senator Spivak, I think that is another matter. We are not talking about bottles or plastic yet; but we will.

Senator Spivak: That is fine. I thought I would take this opportunity.

The Chair: It was a good try. Bootlegging is always highly regarded.

Senator Brown: I do not know whether Minister Johnson feels the lights are getting a little hot in here or not. If I caught everything you said, you have regulations, testing, treatment, filtration and monitoring, and you consult with Health Canada. Does that about sum up everything you do?

Ms. Johnson: That is a pretty exhaustive list, yes. We have a really good staff in the water resources division, and we are called upon not only nationally, but internationally at times, on certain projects for advice on work we have done.

Senator Brown: Would you agree that filtration and treatment are the top two approaches that protect your drinking water?

Ms. Johnson: I would say that it is a combination of a several factors. First and foremost, it would be the source of the water. In our case, in our province, our sources are pristine, as we said earlier, because there is not a lot of industrial development. We are fortunate. However, for other provinces, obviously if they do not protect the source, they will have problems down the line. Because our source is pristine, when it comes to water treatment, we do not necessarily need to do all of the additional treatment that other provinces would have to do. Distribution would be the third place where protection is needed and standards should be in place. For example, it is important to have training for operators so that when maintenance is being done or if there is a heavy rainfall and turbidity is high, then they have the knowledge base and the skills to put a boil-water advisory in place. It is a combination of the three, adding to that how important it is to do operator training and for us as a province to test and to monitor.

Senator Brown: That is precisely what I was looking for. I remember you saying that the only time you really worry about contamination is during high rainfall times and possible flooding, and also in construction. I think your system works so well because you are so close to the issue all the time. You are checking and monitoring it, and, when necessary, you are treating it, whether it is with a boil-water advisory or with filtration or whatever. You probably have the best system in Canada, but other provinces, including my own of Alberta, have pretty good systems as well.

Senator Cochrane: I was wondering about your guidelines to issue enforceable permits and licences to individual treatment plants on a site-specific basis. Would you explain your guidelines and the use of those?

Ms. Johnson: Are you asking about what it is we set out in the permits for those municipalities to follow?

Senator Cochrane: Yes.

Ms. Johnson: We have different stipulations in there. If chlorine is being used, it would be a certified product and purchased from a certified national sanitation foundation, NSF. Also, there are guidelines on how often chlorine should be checked.

Mr. Goebel: It covers the entire range of guidelines, right from the beginning of the construction of the facility to the types of materials that are used, the technology and the treatment processes. That is the construction part. Then there is the operation part dealing with how these things are to be operated and maintained, how the media is to be replaced. It is a 500-page document that has recently been updated, so it is quite modern and current. These guidelines are then echoed in the operating or the construction permits for every new water treatment and water distribution system.

Senator Cochrane: How often do they report to the provincial government?

Mr. Goebel: The monitoring of the resulting water quality is done by us. We actually go into the communities, take the water samples and report back to the community.

Senator Cochrane: How often do you do that?

Mr. Goebel: We do that in accordance with the federal guidelines. For bacteriological water quality, it is a minimum of four samples a month for a community of 5,000 or less, and it increases in relation to the population. In practice, they usually go twice a month and split the samples up. For chemical testing, it is two times per year for most of the chemicals, with the exception of trihalomethanes, THMs, and haloacetic acids, HAAs, which are disinfection by- products and are monitored four times a year.

Senator Cochrane: What about communities of less than 5,000 people?

Mr. Goebel: If they are less than 5,000, they will have four samples per month. Those four samples are taken every two weeks, so there is a total for the month. One minor exception is for very small communities of fewer than 100 people. For those, there is one sample per month.

Senator Cochrane: Is that done all the time?

Mr. Goebel: That is done for every single community in Newfoundland.

Ms. Johnson: It is reported on our website as well.

Senator Cochrane: When did this come into effect? How long have we had this system of using guidelines?

Ms. Johnson: The Newfoundland and Labrador Multi-Barrier Strategic Action Plan began in 2001, and it was an evolution. First, we tackled the source components, all the way down to the operator training. When the specific reporting came in, was it 2005?

Mr. Goebel: It started in 2001, and then by 2003 we had pretty well everything in place. We had the staff in place for doing the full chemical monitoring.

Ms. Johnson: I am thinking of the 500-page document, which was 2005.

Mr. Goebel: Yes.

Senator Cochrane: What improvements have you witnessed during this time?

Ms. Johnson: Before this multi-barrier strategic action plan was in place, there were 322 boil-water advisories in 223 communities in the province. Today, there are about 227 boil-water advisories in 156 communities, so we have seen a major reduction over time. With our new drinking water strategy, which we just announced this year, we will see even more improvement. The numbers speak for themselves.

Senator Cochrane: What is the purpose of these boil-water advisories?

Ms. Johnson: They are for prevention. There are different reasons for a boil-water advisory. In some communities, no disinfection system is in place, or they have a disinfection system there, but they choose not to use it. In the case of chlorine, they would rather boil the water than taste the chlorine. Short-term boil-water advisories are put in place if there is construction of the pipe or a maintenance issue or, as I mentioned earlier, heavy rainfall and turbidity. The other reason for boil-water advisories is if there is a bacteriological concern.

Senator Cochrane: Do you know of any other provinces using this guideline system?

Ms. Johnson: I think we were the first province to post the boil-water advisories on the Internet. However, my understanding is that since then more provinces, if not all, are doing that.

Mr. Goebel: I think most are now posting fairly regularly.

Ms. Johnson: Ours are posted in real time.

Senator Cochrane: Some of the provinces have legislation.

Ms. Johnson: Some provinces have legislation, some have regulations, and, in our case, we have standards. We are one of three provinces that use standards. I believe British Columbia and New Brunswick are the others.

Senator Cochrane: Have you seen any weaknesses in this approach, or would you recommend it to all provinces?

Ms. Johnson: We have been approached recently by West Virginia to look at the training we have in place and what we do in reporting. Walkerton is using the same model that we use. We get calls from all over quite often.

I have heard many accolades for the system that we have in place. Therefore, it is something that I would certainly recommend.

Senator Cochrane: It is positive.

Ms. Johnson: Yes, it is.

Senator Cochrane: Do you have a database? Are you Bruce Hollett?

Bruce Hollett, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: Yes, I am.

Senator Cochrane: There is another Bruce Hollett within government as well. I think it is in the Department of Finance Canada.

Mr. Hollett: I was in the Department of Finance Canada.

Senator Cochrane: You will do fine, sir.

Mr. Hollett: You must be referring to Alton Hollett.

Senator Cochrane: Yes, you are correct. Sorry, it is age.

Alton Hollett created a fantastic community accounts system and has built up this database. You go into it for everything, and every community can report to this database. It will go off into different streams, et cetera.

Do we have that type of system with the environment?

Ms. Johnson: All of our testing is online, and we do an annual report. We are in constant contact with the municipalities. Everything is online, all the water results and the monitoring. As I said, if anything comes out of the testing that may raise an issue or an alarm, we immediately get in touch with the municipality.

If you look at our website, they have done a good job.

The Chair: We have been joined by Senator Kenny, who is reinforcement for Senator Mitchell, who had to go to another job.

We have imposed on your time longer than we told you we may, but I hope you will agree to stay because, as you see, senators have found your testimony arresting. May we have you for a few more minutes?

Ms. Johnson: You can have us for as long as you want. Water is very important. I am here until 8 a.m.

The Chair: Senate committee meetings sometimes go very long.

Senator Grafstein: I am delighted you are here. We have asked in the past for provincial authorities to come forward, and I believe I am correct that this is the first time we have heard from a province. Therefore, I want to thank you very much for paying us the courtesy of your visit and giving us some very interesting and useful information.

I would like to ask you a personal question. Where do you live in Newfoundland?

Ms. Johnson: My riding is in the district of Trinity-Bay De Verde. I grew up in the community of Gull Island. I spend a lot of time there when the House is not in session.

Senator Grafstein: How many water systems are there in your constituency?

Ms. Johnson: In my constituency, there are approximately 15 municipalities and another 15 or 16 communities that would be local service districts or that would have a private well system.

Senator Grafstein: How many boil-water advisories have there been in your constituency in the last year?

Ms. Johnson: I have the table here.

Senator Grafstein: These numbers are a little confusing to me because we get numbers from anecdotal information, from government representatives who get it from the Ministry of Health and from the medical associations. Frankly, they are photographs or instances in time. They are a number of advisories at a particular moment in time.

It would be useful if we can accumulate those. Can you tell us based on your online real-time systems, how many boil-water advisories there have been in Newfoundland this year in total, and how many in your constituency?

Ms. Johnson: I can give you the number for my constituency because we have a table that provides that in alphabetical order.

In terms of boil-water advisories, it is important to note that about 70 per cent of the boil-water advisories are long- term advisories. The other 25 to 35 per cent are more short term because of maintenance issues, high turbidity, et cetera.

Senator Grafstein: Are you are saying to us that the system in place, which is not a regulatory system but a standards system, deals with 30 per cent of the system because 70 per cent are, in effect, not covered? What do you mean by 70/ 30?

Ms. Johnson: Seventy per cent is the number of boil-water advisories that have been in effect for longer than a period of one year.

Senator Grafstein: They are not transitory. They are not based on floods or concentration of rainfall. Are they almost permanent?

Ms. Johnson: These advisories are because there is no disinfection system in place; there is one that is not working; or they choose not to disinfect.

Senator Grafstein: Of the 500,000 people in Newfoundland, what percentage of the population gets good drinking water out of their tap?

Ms. Johnson: Ninety-two per cent of the population that is served —

Senator Grafstein: Not served; get it out of the tap. How many get their pure, clean drinking water at the end of a tap? This bill is directed toward tap water.

Mr. Goebel: About 400,000 have tap water.

Senator Grafstein: Therefore 100,000 people or 20 per cent of the population are not reached by tap water?

Ms. Johnson: Yes.

Senator Grafstein: Is there any foreseeable time when that might change based on your policy?

Ms. Johnson: The drinking water strategy is one component where we could address that.

Mr. Goebel: I think your question was about unserviced communities.

Senator Grafstein: It is not very complicated. How many people get their drinking water out of a tap assuming that the tap water has been standardized, regularized, customized and is drinkable?

Mr. Goebel: It is about 400,000. About 20 per cent of the population gets their water from their own private well on their own property.

Senator Grafstein: Is that 20 per cent that simply get it themselves and are not part of a system?

Mr. Goebel: Their community has no water distribution system. The minister spoke of 223 communities that do not have a drinking water system.

Senator Grafstein: You told us that you have made remarkable progress, and I believe you have. You have decreased from whatever the number was before to 227 boil-water advisories for 157 communities.

What is the total number of communities?

Ms. Johnson: That would have been 322 boil-water advisories from 223 communities. It is decreased from 223 communities to 156.

Senator Grafstein: We have some time, Madame Minister. If the statistics you give us off the top are not correct, you can send a letter to us because we want to get as accurate a picture as possible. I do not want to be unfair to you in asking you statistics that are random.

Ms. Johnson: They change every day.

Senator Grafstein: I know they do. I want to be fair in ensuring that you and the committee get a fair picture.

A considerable number of people in Newfoundland do not get clean drinking water out of their taps.

Ms. Johnson: We are saying that 100,000 people do not get it from a distribution system; they get it from their own private well. That could be clean drinking water.

Senator Grafstein: Are the private wells subject to your standards?

Ms. Johnson: No, they are not.

Senator Grafstein: Let me deal with Aboriginal communities. How many Aboriginal communities do you have in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Ms. Johnson: I will have to correct my last answer. My understanding is that they were not.

Senator Grafstein: We are trying to elicit facts here. We are not trying to score debating points.

Mr. Goebel: You are asking a lot of questions.

Senator Grafstein: They are highly technical questions.

Mr. Goebel: The minister was referring to the fact that the standards and the guidelines apply to all drinking water in the province, whether it is private or public. We do not test private wells. That is left up to the individual.

Senator Grafstein: Is it left up to the individual communities that are based on wells?

Mr. Goebel: The individual communities that are based on wells are public water supplies, so those are tested by the province. If a community owns and operates a well and a single person uses that well, that is a public water supply in our accounts, and we test and monitor it and report on it.

Senator Grafstein: Based on the evidence you gave to our learned senator from Newfoundland, your monitoring is sometimes four times a month, sometimes twice a year, and sometimes four times a year.

Mr. Goebel: It is very specific to the chemical that is being tested.

Senator Grafstein: Do you have any correlation between illness related to drinking water and health costs in your province? If you have had boil-water advisories, obviously, some people have gotten sick.

Mr. Goebel: That is not obvious, actually.

Senator Grafstein: Actually it is, and this is anecdotal: I think the evidence given by the department is that a logarithm indicates that even on tested people, there are a considerable number of Canadians who get sick from drinking water that they cannot measure based on some formulas that statisticians in the Department of Health use.

Do you have any of those statistics available to us that might be useful?

Ms. Johnson: No, I do not. I am not aware of any of those concerns that were raised in terms of health concerns due to drinking water in our province.

Senator Grafstein: It is only recently that the Department of Health has made a connection between the two, so this is relatively new data that we have received in this committee. Two years ago, we could not get this information. This year, we did. It is an evolving statistic.

Do you have any information at all that you can give us from your Department of Health, your local municipalities or your hospitals related to illnesses arising out of bad drinking water?

The Chair: Mr. Goebel, while you are thinking about that — you can give us that information later as opposed to now — would you continue with the answer that you were giving to Senator Grafstein about that not being an obvious connection, please, so we can hear what you have to say.

Mr. Goebel: The minister has pointed out that we have had no boil-water orders in our jurisdiction for many years, certainly, in my recollection.

The Chair: This is a distinction between orders and advisories?

Mr. Goebel: An order is a situation where there is a confirmed disease outbreak as a result of a water-borne disease transmitted through the water system. We have had no such occurrence in this province for many years.

Senator Grafstein: Was that the finding of the Canadian Medical Association, CMA? I have not looked at that as related to your province.

The Chair: We will have to consult the CMA report to find the answer to that.

Senator Grafstein: Let me deal with your major objection to this bill. Your major objection, as I understand it, is that this is a redundant bill. We have a different approach to things in Newfoundland. I think the minister said, ``We believe in the carrot as opposed to the stick.'' What is the carrot, if people do not do their job?

Ms. Johnson: As I pointed out, many of these people are volunteers, and if we impose regulations that would have consequences in terms of the Criminal Code, any headway that we have made, which is significant headway, we would be 10 steps backward. Many of these communities will wash their hands of all of this and frankly tell us that if we were to impose things like that, they would not know where they would get the money to do this.

We do not use this as a punitive measure. We do not believe we should punish people because there is a boil-water advisory in place due to high turbidity. We do not feel that is the way to deal with it. We have a system that works.

Senator Grafstein: Except that a good chunk of your population does not have clean drinking water at the end of a tap.

Ms. Johnson: That is a bit of a misunderstanding. The 100,000 people we are talking about still get drinking water, but it is from a private well. It is not that they do not get clean drinking water.

Senator Grafstein: I see. How many people in the province that do not have a private well do not get clean drinking water from their tap? Are there people who are just not covered?

Ms. Johnson: If there is a concern or an advisory is put in place as a preventative measure — if you are looking at that — our most recent number will be about 50,000 people are currently under a boil-water advisory.

The Chair: I think you said that that is in about 150 communities.

Ms. Johnson: It is 156 communities.

Senator Grafstein: Let me conclude, if I could, with this: What happens when a community is recalcitrant and just does not follow your guidelines or your standards? What do you do? That happens.

Ms. Johnson: We certainly keep in touch with the communities. We have a great relationship.

Senator Grafstein: I know you are in touch, but it certainly happens. You cannot tell me that 100 per cent of communities follow the guidelines strictly.

Ms. Johnson: We can tell you that 100 per cent of the communities have their water quality tested and monitored because we do it ourselves.

Senator Grafstein: I am not questioning that. I am saying they monitor and test it; it is a periodic testing. It is not every day.

Ms. Johnson: It is as per the guidelines.

Senator Grafstein: It is not every day. You have just told us what your guidelines are, namely, four times a month for some; two times a year for others; and, four times for a third.

Ms. Johnson: Those are the Canadian drinking water guidelines that we are following.

Senator Grafstein: I understand that. I am just saying that they are not tested on an as-it-happens situation. It is not real-time, every day.

Ms. Johnson: Within the communities, yes, they are. The municipalities are the ownership of their water supply system, and they do check on a daily basis.

Senator Grafstein: They do their own testing, and you come in and do spot-checking.

Ms. Johnson: We do checking as per the Canadian drinking water guidelines.

Senator Grafstein: I understand that. I do not want to start talking jargon. You come in and do spot-checking on top of the municipalities. Do the municipalities require you to test their water every day, according to your standards?

Mr. Goebel: They are required to do chlorine residual testing every day. That is it.

Senator Grafstein: Let us use the Walkerton situation. There was a regulation. They were testing, there were systems and reserves, and it was the same with North Battleford, Saskatchewan. However, guess what? The system failed. What happens when the system or community fails? What happens then?

Ms. Johnson: They do not test. They get placed on a boil-water advisory.

Senator Grafstein: They just get listed on a map somewhere. Are there no other consequences to them other than being publicly listed?

Ms. Johnson: Certainly, we do contact them and tell them that it is important to chlorinate. If not, there is a boil- water advisory in place.

Senator Grafstein: However, there would be a boil-water advisory in place as soon as it is tested, according to what you have just said. As soon as you get the test, you put it online, and then you tell the community that, by the way, a boil-water advisory is on. As soon as you get the test, unless I am confused by your testimony — you said that it is real time — you put it on the system, or do you warn them that you have a bad test? What happens?

Ms. Johnson: We warn them too, immediately.

Senator Grafstein: You put them on the boil-water advisory and they do it, and what has been the response time? What do you do with people who are recalcitrant? In Toronto, we have a lot of recalcitrant people, maybe not in Newfoundland. Many of our officials do not follow suit; they do not do what they are supposed to do.

Ms. Johnson: I am not familiar with any situations that you are describing in our province. We have good compliance. If we call them to tell them there is an issue, they are more than willing — and so they should be — to take action and post a boil-water advisory.

Senator Grafstein: Are the bulk of these people volunteers?

Ms. Johnson: The bulk of them are very dedicated volunteers.

Senator Grafstein: Is there one full-time professional responsible in every water system?

Ms. Johnson: No, there is not.

Senator Grafstein: Why is that?

Ms. Johnson: Many of these communities have populations of 100 or 200 people. Some of the populations are declining. Even having said that, these volunteers do admirable work and take pride in what they do. They take time out of their schedule to do this operator training. Not only that, but we also bring training units to their municipalities so that they can learn right on their own equipment.

Senator Grafstein: I would like to talk about the larger centres. Let us talk about St. John's. Are there problems in St. John's?

Ms. Johnson: No.

Senator Grafstein: What was the last boil-water advisory in St. Johns?

Mr. Goebel: There was one around August 2001. I am unsure of the exact date.

Senator Grafstein: Has there not been a major problem in St. John's or the other major urban centres in the last five years?

Ms. Johnson: No been boil-water orders have occurred in the last six years in the province.

Senator Grafstein: Your only ``stick'' then is a boil-water advisory, a test and a call.

Ms. Johnson: I would not say ``only'' because it is significant when we put a community on a boil-water advisory. They are aware of what that means. ``Only'' is diminishing what a boil-water advisory means, in my opinion.

The Chair: I will put one final question to you, if I can, along the Senator Grafstein's line. There are meat packing plants, fish packing plants and other food processing plants in Newfoundland and Labrador. Meat, vegetables, fish and other consumables are all susceptible to regulation.

Anything that we consume is susceptible to regulation. If you do something or participate in making or purveying something that makes somebody ill, there is a penalty. Notwithstanding that this has not happened in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that may have to do with the pristine source of your water. With everything that we ingest, there is a penalty, a consequence of some type to that person who has been derelict or less than responsible in purveying to us anything that makes us ill. There is a consequence of doing that beyond someone putting up a sign saying that these guys have put out a product that made people sick.

I believe Senator Grafstein was moving towards this question. It may be difficult to apply such a penalty to a volunteer and that may be your point. Is there a penalty in Newfoundland for failing to measure up to the standard; a penalty beyond the stigma of a boil-water advisory?

Ms. Johnson: No, there is not. As I said earlier, we do not believe in punitive methods. This is a public water supply system. Yes, it is used for drinking water but also for other reasons.

We do not sell this, per se, like you would meat or pop. Many communities, in my opinion, do not even charge enough for the systems that they do have in place when it comes to water. Municipalities do not make money on water; therefore, they are different than a food manufacturer or other businesses.

For all the reasons that I outlined previously, the punitive method would be a step backwards.

Senator Milne: Madame Minister, do you think the passage of this bill will have any implications for the mining industry in your province? The wording of Bill S-206, in clause 3, says that an inspector can enter any place ``from which any substance may escape and contaminate any food.'' I will give you time to read the clause.

You have been asked about the fish industry and the food industry, but what about the mining industry and that particular clause?

Mr. Goebel: We have our own inspectors that do watershed inspections. If there is a mine in a water supply area that is causing a problem, we have inspectors that will go to that watershed and to that mine and deal with that situation if it comes up.

Senator Milne: Are these volunteer inspectors?

Mr. Goebel: No, these are provincial staff in the minister's department. If it is a new mine, then that mine would be subject to very strict terms and conditions of a permit to be allowed to operate in that watershed. It may have requirements such as additional monitoring, additional buffers or not storing fuel in the watershed.

There are many terms and conditions with which they would have to comply. Those would be legally enforceable on a mine or any industry that might operate in a watershed.

Senator Grafstein: Do you know how many bottles of water are sold in your province?

Ms. Johnson: I tried to get that exact figure for another reason. I know that some communities do use bottled water. In fact, they go to springs, and that is not something that our department advocates at all because there is no testing on that water.

I have statistics throughout Canada but not specifically to Newfoundland and Labrador. More people are doing it for a lifestyle choice, but the statistics for the people that go to a spring is about 20 per cent. You could probably extrapolate from that that if they are going there, they are probably buying bottled water as well. Some people who have very good water at their tap are buying bottled water. It is for different reasons that they choose to buy bottled water.

Senator Grafstein: Why is that?

Ms. Johnson: It could be advertising or life style choice. That is my opinion.

The Chair: You have been very forthcoming. We are grateful that you came. We wish that more provinces would respond in the way that you have. We are very grateful.

Senators, will adjourn the meeting, but I remind you that Senator Milne, Senator Spivak and Senator Nolin and I must convene a meeting of the steering committee.

The committee adjourned.

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