Ecojustice Case – Healthy communities Case Status: In Progress

Seeking justice for contaminated Thane Smelter site

Ecojustice lawyer Laura BowmanLaura BowmanLawyer
Ian MironLawyer

Local resident Debbie Gordon is seeking a judicial review in the matter of the abandoned Thane Smelter contaminated sites in the town of Georgina, Ontario. Laura Bowman and Ian Miron, lawyers working for Ecojustice, are representing Gordon and filed the case on her behalf in April 2015 (Gordon v. Director, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change et al.)

Although the Thane Smelter operation was abandoned in 1997, a large (and illegal) pile of aluminum waste products containing numerous harmful contaminants remains on the site today.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change issued a clean-up order for the smelter site in 2000, but the owner failed to remove the waste from the site. Gordon requested a Ministry investigation in 2002 and later participated in a public liaison committee for over three years looking for options to remove the waste in cooperation with the Ministry. Over the years, the Ministry repeatedly promised that the site would be cleaned up. Then in 2014, without consulting the Town of Georgina or local residents, and despite repeatedly recognizing the waste stored illegally on the site as a threat to the environment, the Ministry secretly revoked the clean-up order.

For approximately 14 years, the owners have failed to remove the waste. During this time, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has also failed to remove the waste or to enforce orders requiring that the owners do so.

The Town of Georgina also has an application for judicial review on this issue that is before the courts.

Why is Ecojustice involved?

This case is about ensuring that the government of Ontario is serious about remediation of pollution from abandoned sites and holds polluters accountable in accordance with its legal mandate. The Province has an obligation to provide an environmentally responsible solution for protecting the environment from abandoned contaminated sites, even ones that pose environmental risks.

What would a win mean?

Through this lawsuit, Gordon hopes to ensure that the Ministry makes decisions about cleaning up contaminated sites in a reasonable, accountable and transparent way. She hopes to ensure that these decisions are made in a way that satisfies the Ministry’s duties to hold polluters accountable and to make sure that contaminated sites are appropriately cleaned up. Ultimately, Gordon hopes this lawsuit will result in the clean-up of pollution from the Thane Smelter site, which has plagued her and her community for decades.

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