Ontario municipality fined $100K after water worker hired without proper certification

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The Corporation of the Town of Orangeville has been fined $125,000 after being convicted of two violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The charges relate to operating a municipal drinking water system without a valid operator’s certificate and failing to exercise the level of care and diligence expected of a reasonably prudent person.

During the period from February 15, 2019, to October 03, 2019, the town employed an operator without a valid certificate to work on the Orangeville Drinking Water System (DWS), which serves around 30,735 people across 9,873 connections. Despite the town’s legal obligation to display copies of certifications, the employee was not asked to produce a valid certificate until the ministry inspection process began.

Following an investigation by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the town was convicted of the two violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act and fined $100,000, plus a victim fine surcharge of $25,000. The town has three months to pay the fine.

The charges were brought to court after an applicant for a Water Works Operator 1 position at the Town submitted a resume claiming they held a valid Operator in Training (OIT) certificate. The town’s human resources department was unable to validate the certificate, but the applicant was selected for the interview process without further follow-up. The new hire was given operational duties, including maintaining and repairing hydrants and valves, taking water samples, and acknowledging SCADA alarms.

It wasn’t until a ministry inspection that the employee was asked to produce certification. It was discovered that the employee did not hold a valid OIT certificate from October 1, 2018, through October 3, 2019, despite completing approximately 698 hours of operator work at the Orangeville DWS. The employee was issued a valid OIT certificate effective October 4, 2019.

The Ministry’s Environmental Investigations and Enforcement Branch conducted the investigation that led to the charges and convictions. The conviction serves as a reminder that municipal drinking water systems must be operated with proper certification and care to ensure the safety of residents.

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