Page 9: Guidance For Providing Safe Drinking Water in Areas of Federal Jurisdiction – Version 2

Appendix C: Examples of types of drinking water-related roles and responsibilities within some federal departments

Responsible authority (RA)

The RA employs one or more persons and includes the RA's organization and any person who acts on behalf of the RA. In the context of drinking water programs, the term "RA" includes each department and all levels of management and, in the case of First Nations communities, Chief and Council.

As discussed, federal legislation and regulations require federal employers to provide employees with potable water meeting the GCDWQ. Although the employer may hire or designate a manager or operator-in-charge of drinking water systems, a duty remains with the employer to ensure all requirements of drinking water programs are met. This duty is met through a commitment to implement, validate and verify program elements, as well as through responding appropriately to complaints or deficiencies. The general and specific duties of the employer are found in the Canada Labour Code, Part II - Occupational Health and Safety, sections 124 and 125, respectively.

Manager or water treatment plant operator

The manager or water treatment plant operator is ideally an individual who is on-site at a facility on a daily basis. In situations where one person cares for many facilities, s/he would be expected to visit each one on a regular schedule.

The manager or operator-in-charge is responsible for ensuring the water treatment plant is operated in accordance with appropriate protocols and guidelines, as well as for ensuring water consumers have access to safe drinking water. S/he should assess the facility to identify any risks to drinking water quality. S/he should also develop a protocol specific to his or her facilities that references any applicable regulations (including the federal ones identified in Section 2.2 - 2.4) and that follows best management practices as detailed in Section 6.0. Other management duties include:

  • Assessing the facility to identify risks to occupational and environmental health, specific to purveying drinking water;
  • Developing a mitigation or remediation plan, including time frames, costs and risk statements, to correct deficiencies;
  • Developing a training and information plan for the employees who operate and maintain facilities (see Section 6.2);
  • Securing services from qualified, accredited laboratories and consultants, as required (see Section 6.3.3);
  • Developing a records system for potable water management (see Section 6.5);
  • Developing incident and emergency response plans, including a communications plan (see Section 6.6);
  • Preparing an annual report on all aspects of the drinking water system, including incidents and remedial actions;
  • Developing public information packages (Holden, 2001);
  • Encouraging the use of best management practices for system operations; and
  • Ensuring that an evaluation/audit procedure is in place (see Section 6.7).

The manager or operator-in-charge should also ensure that anyone affected by problems with the drinking water supply is notified and kept well informed of developments. Potential contacts include occupants, management, health and safety representatives at the facility, and the local Medical Officer of Health. Provincial regulatory branches could also be consulted. A process for notification is outlined in Section 6.6.

If the quality of the water at the facility is deemed unsafe, the manager is responsible for providing an alternate and safe supply of potable water for drinking, dental hygiene, and food preparation. Section 6.6 describes the requirements of a contingency plan.

Technical support staff for monitoring drinking water quality results

These staff members are responsible for ensuring that the quality of drinking water is being monitored and results interpreted and communicated with the RAs. In First Nations communities, these staff are known as Environmental Health Officers.

In some situations, technical support staff may sample and test drinking water quality. They are then responsible for following the sampling procedures outlined in Section 6.3 in order to ensure consistent and accurate test results. If a portable lab has been used, staff should ensure that the QA/QC procedures are followed. If a laboratory service is used, staff should verify that the laboratory service is accredited to perform testing of specific parameters. See Section 6.3.3 for details.

Drinking water monitor

In remote and isolated locations, including in under-developed countries, it may be most cost-effective to have portable laboratories available on-site for water quality testing. In such cases, a Drinking Water Monitor should be assigned responsibility for the on-going operation of the water laboratory. The responsibilities of the drinking water monitor include:

  • Sampling and testing drinking water quality;
  • Recording all results on water quality data sheets weekly and sending reports monthly to the appropriate health authority;
  • Performing quality assurance tests on testing media according to the quality assurance plan developed in collaboration with the appropriate health authority;
  • Immediately notifying the appropriate health authority if E. coli and/or total coliforms exceed the GCDWQ or when there are unusual changes in disinfectant residual (the health authority is notified so it can interpret the results and recommend further action); and
  • Meeting regularly with the appropriate health authority throughout the year, as required, and reporting orally on program activities.

If a drinking water monitor is not available, then the technical support staff will fill the roles and responsibilities of the drinking water monitor (Health Canada, 2007)

Health and safety representatives

Health and safety representatives at the facility should be involved and informed throughout the testing procedure and involved with the communication process. They can reinforce communications made by the manager or operator in charge and may facilitate lines of communication by acting as liaisons between employees and management.

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