TORONTO — Environmental groups and Ontario doctors applauded the government’s new clean water legislation Monday and said it will avoid another tainted water tragedy like the Walkerton, Ont., contamination in 2000.
The government is holding public hearings on the Clean Water Act, which was introduced last December to address water safety in the province.
Bruce Davidson, of Concerned Walkerton Citizens, said he hopes the legislation will prevent future tragedies like the one in Walkerton, where seven people died and thousands more fell ill after drinking water tainted with E.coli.
An inquiry slammed lax provincial oversight of water quality and sloppy operation of the water system itself.
“The government has clearly heard our concerns and taken our recommendations seriously,” Davidson said in a release.
The Ontario Medical Association welcomed the legislation while Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, called it “a big step forward for water protection” because it lays out a process for identifying tainted water.
“Protecting our sources of drinking water is pure common sense,” Smith said in a release.
But the Ontario NDP said the legislation has no teeth because it doesn’t give municipalities the money to enforce the act.
Environment critic Peter Tabuns said the Liberals promised to charge water-bottling companies for tapping the province’s natural resources, money which would help fund municipalities keep their water clean.
But the government has backed away from that promise, saying it falls outside provincial jurisdiction, he said.
“These arguments don’t hold water,” Tabuns said in a release. “Other provinces and states charge companies for taking water.”
The public hearings continue around the province this week but the bill isn’t expected to become law until later this year.