LEGAL DEFENCE FUND
July 21, 2002
still a safe haven for polluters
Report reveals province's
abysmal enforcement record and highlights under-reporting
– Sierra Legal Defence Fund has released a scathing
report, titled Polluter's Haven, which documents
thousands of violations of both provincial air and wastewater
standards within the Lake Ontario basin and highlights
the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy's (MOE)
continued abysmal enforcement record. The report also
alleges that the MOE is under-reporting the true number
of facilities that violate air pollution laws.
reveals that although the MOE has documented more than
6,500 wastewater and air violations in the Lake Ontario
basin since the early 1990s, only an estimated 15 facilities
were prosecuted and convicted since the mid 1990s – representing
slightly more than 5% of over 265 violating facilities.
sense dictates that if polluters know they have more than
a 90% chance of breaking the law without being charged,
they will continue to do so," said Sierra Legal Project
Scientist Kim Mandzy. "The MOE should initiate more
prosecutions, especially against those facilities with
long records of offending years and large numbers of violations."
Polluter's Haven also identifies
irregularities in the MOE's lists of polluters published
on their website. Using data obtained through Freedom
of Information requests, the report reveals that in 1999
the MOE listed 4 facilities within the Lake
as having air discharges in non-compliance with provincial
air pollution laws. The MOE collects additional information
on facilities with air violations that it chooses not
to disclose on its website.
Sierra Legal's research shows that 95 facilities
were actually in violation.
found that the MOE website was very misleading and under-reported
the actual number of facilities with air violations,"
said Mandzy. "The MOE should increase its transparency
by providing the public with a complete set of information
on both air and water violators."
argues that the province should not only list facilities
and parameters violated, but also the number of violations,
charges and convictions.
also identifies known toxic chemicals including benzene,
asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), iron,
lead and zinc that were still being emitted at levels
violating the legal limit, despite continued government
commitments of elimination. The report recommends that
facilities with violations of persistent toxic substances
should be a priority for prosecution.
and a media backgrounder are available online
at www.sierralegal.org .