An OOWA External Relations Committee Update
OOWA BOD & Co-Chair of External Relations Committee
If you were fortunate enough to attend OOWA’s Annual Convention and Exhibition at Deerhurst Resort, hopefully you heard the keynote address by Andrea Kahnjin, MPP Barrie-Innisfil, Parliamentary Assistant to Rod Phillips, Minster of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP). In her speech, she committed the MECP’s help to “ensure that oversight and approvals keep pace” with our industry needs, as well as support to the Open for Business initiative through increased in collaboration between the MECP and OOWA on small systems needs.
Her words became reality when on March 26, OOWA and MECP representatives gathered in Toronto. This meeting was convened in response to a request made by the OOWA Improving Approvals Working Group last fall, asking the MECP to form a collaborative working group on Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) issues. Previous OOWA consultation efforts and working group input had identified numerous ECA issues that cause hurdles in the approvals process for small systems. Another topic and key point of discussion was the need for an update of the D5-2 Guideline (1995). OOWA had specifically requested MECP input for information that is still needed to finalize our FAQ on Municipal Responsibility Agreements (MRAs) to support implementation of private communal systems.
OOWA representatives, Anne Egan, Brady Straw, Andrew Hellebust, Sandra Swanton, Rick Esselment, Jane Zima and Trish Johnson participated in the meeting arranged by Mansoor Mahmood, Senior Manager of MECPs Environmental Approvals Services, with additional designated cross-divisional MECP representatives to discuss the concerns with approvals that OOWA had raised. Our issues included inconsistencies between District office procedures, the timeframe for pre-consultation, the need for pre-consultation tracking numbers, the 2008 Sewage Works Design Guidelines lack of suitability to small systems, confusion stemming from the ECA application’s ‘Statement of the Municipality’, and also the D5-2 Guide requirement for signed Municipal Responsibility Agreements (MRAs).
The MECP thanked OOWA for their input and confirmed that they have now established a cross-divisional working group to address ECA issues. They are currently working on developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and an external fact sheet to better support the pre-consultation phase. Further, training will be provided to the District offices regarding the new procedures to ensure a more standard approach. The new SOP is expected to streamline pre-consultation and will also initiate file tracking numbers that link to the ECA application file. This new MECP procedure is expected to be rolled out by this summer.
Regarding the ECA application ‘Statement of the Municipality’, the MECP acknowledged that concerns have been raised around this and there is currently an application review process underway. The MECP is considering both a change in language and location of the supporting information to more properly reflect that the purpose of this section is simply to confirm municipal awareness. The supporting explanation should also be moved to closer proximity to the required signature line and the MECP is considering this.
On the issue of revisiting the 2008 Design guidelines, the MECP Standards and Development Branch noted this is an onerous process but expressed a willingness to work with OOWA further on this issue to improve supplemental documentation to better support the design of small systems.
Lastly, the MECP confirmed that the D5-2 Guidelines are being revisited and this effort will be led by a policy team. This issue will also require further collaborative policy discussions.
As a next step, OOWA will draft a Terms of Reference for the new OOWA/MECP Approvals Working Group. This action will be addressed by OOWA’s External Relations Committee and interested volunteers.
Please stay tuned for more information on OOWA’s improving approvals efforts in the next edition of Onsite!
For more information, or to join the Improving Approvals Working Group, contact Trish Johnson, email@example.com