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Sierra Legal Defence Fund
Industry and municipalities continue to pollute Ontario's waters with impunity

Government data reveals 1,946 violations of water laws in 2001

TORONTO Today, Sierra Legal Defence Fund released government data obtained under provincial freedom of information laws that highlights the continued abuse of Ontario's water and wastewater laws by industrial, commercial and municipal facilities. The data reveals that there were 1,946 violations of provincial wastewater laws in 2001, the most recent year for which data is available. The data also reveals that the province initiated prosecutions against only 9 of the 216 facilities in violation.

"It appears that the provincial government has continued to allow industry to violate our laws and pollute our waters with impunity," said Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Sierra Legal staff scientist. "In 2001 there were almost 2,000 violations of Ontario's wastewater laws, and the province has chosen to prosecute less than 2% of the violating facilities."

The data showed that the level of violations increased from the previous year (1,925 violations in 2000) and that many of the problem facilities continued to be in violation throughout 2001. The four worst industrial violators for 2001, the "Filthy Four", were Chinook Group Ltd. (near Sarnia) with 354 violations, Stepan Canada Inc. (near Orillia) with 341, Haley Industries (near Pembroke) with 82 and Falconbridge Ltd. (Sudbury/ Timmins) with 66 violations. The City of London's municipal sewage treatment facilities were the worst of the municipal facilities with 73 violations in 2001.

"The tragedy in Walkerton in May 2000 should have served as a wake-up call and forced the government to take action against chronic violators of Ontario's wastewater laws," continued MacDonald. "However, the province continues to allow companies like Chinook and Stepan to violate the law more than 300 times each year without repercussions. If someone was to accumulate more than 300 speeding tickets in a year, they would certainly be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The obtained data pertains to violations of provincial regulations governing wastewater discharges, referred to as the Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) regulations. MISA regulations set pollutant limits for wastewater discharged by industrial facilities. The data also includes violations of Certificates of Approval, which also establish limits for pollutants being discharged by a facility. The violations include the release of phosphates, nitrates and 'oil and grease' and known toxic chemicals such as benzene, arsenic, cyanide, tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and nickel, as well as Escherichia coli.

Since 1995, Sierra Legal has requested detailed information on violations of provincial wastewater laws and guidelines from the Ministry of Environment and Energy each year using the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This year's data will also be presented in Sierra Legal's upcoming annual report on compliance with Ontario's air and water regulations.

For further information please contact:

Sierra Legal Defence Fund:
Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Staff Scientist (416) 368-7533 x.27
Jode Roberts, Communications Manager (416) 368-7533 x.25

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