Province overhauls hazardous waste policy
Article courtesy of the Star
December 18, 2001
Ontario plans to destroy all dangerous PCBs in storage
within three years, shut its hospital bio-waste incinerators
and make hazardous-material producers pay to keep track
of the toxins they produce.
In unveiling the first major overhaul of the rules dealing
with hazardous waste in Ontario in 15 years, Environment
Minister Elizabeth Witmer said today the changes will vault
the province into the vanguard of environmental protection.
"Our policies have suffered from nearly two decades of inactivity,"
"This is the most far-reaching and multi-faceted action
plan on hazardous waste in years."
A key component of the strategy includes a plan to destroy
the 99,000 tonnes of carcinogenic PCBs in storage within
Hospitals and schools will have one year to get rid of theirs.
Keith West, an official at the Environment Ministry, said
high-level PCBs will be sent to Swan Hills, Alta., while
the province has top-notch technology to destroy safely
the rest of the stocks of electrical coolant.
Witmer also said that it makes sense to close the province's
44 hospital incinerators and have hazardous bio-waste —
from body parts to blood — disposed of properly in specialized
"Hospitals are one of the largest sources of (carcinogenic)
dioxin emissions in Canada," said Witmer.
The decision will also reduce mercury emissions from hospital
waste by 90 per cent, said the ministry's John Mayes.
Most of the hospital waste incineration will likely take
place at a new facility in Brampton, northwest of Toronto.
Critics have long complained the province lacks proper tracking
and disposal procedures for the 10,000 tonnes of such wastes
produced annually which can contain dangerous pathogens
and spread disease.
A new online database for tracking all hazardous waste in
the province is expected to be up and running by February
— the first such system in North America.
"We need to know that the companies who generate, who transport
and dispose of this hazardous waste are held to the very
highest standards," said Witmer.
To help pay for the database, the province is planning to
levy new user fees on those who produce hazardous waste
which are expected to generate $12 million.
However, no new staff or money will be added to the Environment
Ministry, which the Tory government slashed almost in half
in the mid-1990s.
Witmer said the province has since added more staff, including
its new environmental `SWAT team,' and that enforcement,
prosecutions and fines are on the rise.
The regulations will also include a new definition for hazardous
waste that takes in everything from household cleaners,
used motor oil, to chemicals used in dry cleaning and during
Earlier this fall, Environment Commissioner Gord Miller
warned that the province had increasingly become a dumping
ground for hazardous waste for American companies looking
for cheap disposal.
West said the plan is "very clearly" to reduce the amount
of imported waste.
Witmer said the province is in the process of setting tough
standards for pre-treatment of hazardous waste that will
meet or exceed U.S. standards, and will put in place specific
reduction targets for all wastes.