Drinking water lab inspections
How to prepare for an inspection and what to expect, including what happens if your lab is not complying with the law.
Under law, inspectors (also called provincial officers) can enter a laboratory to ensure that it is complying with laws and rules set out in certain pieces of legislation:
- Environmental Protection Act
- Ontario Water Resources Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Health Protection and Promotion Act
- Nutrient Management Act
- Pesticides Act
- Environmental Assessment Act
About drinking water laboratory inspections
Reasons for inspections:
- legislative requirements
- routine checks for compliance
- concerns or complaints
- follow-up inspection from prior violations
- special circumstances (responsive inspection or pre-licence inspection)
Drinking water laboratory inspectors will:
- assess if a laboratory is meeting regulatory requirements
- encourage best practices
- review the procedures and practices used by a laboratory for the testing and reporting of Ontario’s drinking water data
Types of inspections:
- Announced: an inspector schedules an inspection in advance, by consulting with you
- Unannounced: an inspector will arrive unannounced for a laboratory inspection
- Responsive: an inspector responds to a complaint or concern
An inspector schedules an on-site inspection after receiving an application for a new drinking water testing licence. The inspector will provide guidance and explain regulatory requirements to assist a new laboratory in meeting all mandatory requirements before granting a licence.
Learn more about applying for a new drinking water testing licence.
An inspector schedules an on-site inspection after a laboratory submits a request to transfer its drinking water testing licence to another location. The inspector will ensure the new facility and equipment will continue to meet the licensing requirements, and that staff at new locations will follow existing policies and procedures.
During an inspection, the inspector will:
- present a photo I.D. and badge
- ask to speak with the licensed laboratory contact or the laboratory manager/director
- explain the purpose of the inspection
The inspector may interview personnel, review records, tour the facility, collect samples, take photos or copy documents, or ask your laboratory to analyze Performance Evaluation (PE) samples and provide the ministry with the results.
At the end of the inspection, the inspector will:
- discuss observations and if necessary ask for clarification
- request more information, if needed
- inform the laboratory of any non-compliance issues identified
- discuss next steps
After the inspection, the inspector will provide the laboratory with a copy of the laboratory inspection report, which will include details of the required actions necessary to bring the laboratory back into compliance.
Inspectors use a specific protocol during an inspection to determine whether a laboratory is complying with provincial laws.
- following a consistent approach at each laboratory inspected
- providing an Inspection Risk Rating (IRR) score as a performance measure to encourage continuous improvements in compliance
If a laboratory fails to comply with provincial laws, an inspector can:
- issue a voluntary abatement request: a verbal or written request to correct minor issues within a specific period of time
- issue a provincial officer’s order: a legal document setting out the obligations for a specific operation — issued in cases of serious non-compliance posing a threat to human health
- trigger an investigation (by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch)
- revoke a drinking water testing licence
If charges are laid, the laboratory will receive a summons under the Provincial Offences Act.