Posted on January 20, 2010 (updated: January 20, 2010)

Province lags in keeping industrial waste from the Great Lakes

TORONTO – Environmental groups are urging the McGuinty government to stop the ongoing pollution of the Great Lakes by fixing stagnant and ineffective discharge regulations.

Ecojustice, Great Lakes United and Environmental Defence submitted an application to the Ministry of the Environment today calling for a review and amendment of the Environment Protection Act’s Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) regulations.

“The stated goal of the MISA regulations is the virtual elimination of persistent toxic contaminants from industrial discharges,” said Ecojustice Senior Scientist Elaine MacDonald. “Instead of eliminating pollution to Ontario’s waterbodies, MISA has become stagnant and ineffective.”

The nine MISA regulations came into force between 1993 and 1995 and regulate approximately 140 major industrial facilities in Ontario. The regulations are supposed to be reviewed every five years, with the expectation that they will gradually be strengthened as pollution abatement technologies improved. To date, no review of MISA has been conducted and the standards embedded in the regulations remain largely unchanged over the past 15 years.

MISA is also contributing to Ontario’s sewage system problems. Hundreds of industries that dump wastewater into municipal sewers have not been regulated under MISA as intended, resulting in untreatable toxic pollution entering the province’s sewage treatment facilities. The application is also calling for industries to be required to pre-treat their waste before discharging to a municipal treatment system.

“Industries are effectively being allowed to blindly plug their pipe into the municipal sewer,” said John Jackson, Director of Toxics and Clean Production, Great Lakes United. We need a provincial system that places responsibility on the polluter to ensure their discharges do not cause harm.”

The MISA regulations were set up by Ontario as one of its commitments under the Canada – US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to eliminate persistent toxic substances from the Great Lakes Basin.

“An updating of the MISA regulations will force much need investment in Ontario’s industrial sector,” said Mike Layton, Deputy Outreach Director, Environmental Defence. “That investment will mean better health for the millions of Ontarians that draw their drinking water from Great Lakes.”

The application makes seven recommended changes to MISA to ensure the progressive and continual reduction of pollution discharges into Ontario’s waterways.

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