Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) filed a formal Application today with the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario calling on the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to fill serious gaps in Ontario’s pollution laws that currently put the health of Ontario residents at risk in highly polluted areas of the province.

“Like all Canadian citizens, residents in heavily industrialized, polluted areas have a right to live in a healthy environment,” said Ecojustice lawyer Justin Duncan. “We are calling for the province to plug gaps in Ontario’s regulatory framework to improve the environments in pollution hot spots and to improve the health of people living in these communities.”

The Application for Review was submitted under the Environmental Bill of Rights on behalf of two residents of the Sarnia-area Aamjiwnaang First Nation, who argue that the staggering amounts of pollution from industrial facilities in the area known as Canada’s Chemical Valley has caused serious harm to the health of their community. Conservative estimates of pollution released in the Sarnia area indicates industry releases over 130 million kilograms of air pollution yearly.

“How polluted can a community become before the government admits something is horribly wrong, and changes the law to protect us?” said Applicant Ada Lockridge. “Our water is polluted, our land is polluted, and our air is polluted. By taking action now and updating Ontario’s laws to reduce pollution in hot spots like ours, the government can ensure that future generations don’t have to endure this toxic burden.”

The EBR Application for Review calls for the Ministry of the Environment to identify Pollution Hot Spots across the province – areas with large industrial facilities that emit a multitude of toxic pollution that cumulatively impact people’s health. The Application also requests that the province place a moratorium on new pollution permits in these areas until it enacts a new planning framework that aims to reduce pollution levels in hot spot communities.

“We have filed this application for the betterment of the health of all who live in the Sarnia area and similar communities,” said Applicant Ron Plain. “I would hope the attention brought by this will begin a dialog in our community; conversations at coffee shops and water coolers about the health problems affecting all of our families.”