Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Sierra Legal uncovers 2500 violations of Ontario’s water pollution laws

Sierra Legal Defence Fund today released the results of its investigation into continued chronic non-compliance with Ontario’s water pollution laws by industrial facilities. Based on government documents, the results provide a snapshot of non-compliance with provincial water pollution laws during 2002 and 2003, the most recent years for which data is available. During that period there were 2,500 documented pollution violations by industry, including more than 2,300 water pollution violations and 102 illegal spills into water. The data also reveals that in 2003 alone the volume of illegal spills into water totalled more than 5,000,000 litres.

“Our research has exposed another 2,500 reasons why Ontario needs to get tough with polluters,” said Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Staff Scientist with Sierra Legal. “Companies throughout the province continue to flout Ontario’s water pollution laws. These chronic polluters should be held accountable for the environmental damage they cause.”

Obtained from the provincial government through Freedom of Information requests, Sierra Legal’s research provides detailed summaries of violations of water pollution laws and a list of the 21 companies with ten or more violations.

Sierra Legal has obtained detailed data on violations of pollution limits for the past several years. Prior to 1999 the province published full public reports documenting non-compliance and enforcement efforts on a facility-by-facility basis. Since then government disclosure has been abysmal and Sierra Legal has repeatedly called on the government to return to a policy of full disclosure of all information concerning pollution violations and enforcement.

“The public has a right to know when companies in their community are breaking the laws intended to protect our water,”continued MacDonald. “We need full transparency to ensure that the provincial government is ‘cracking down on polluters’.”

The province recently introduced Bill 133, largely in response to numerous contaminant spills in the St. Clair River. The new legislation would give the Ministry of the Environment the ability to impose significant penalties against facilities that break pollution laws regarding spills and discharges into the environment. Potential penalties will be $20,000 per day for individuals and $100,000 per day for corporations.

“If enacted, Bill 133 will substantially reduce the ability of corporations to avoid liability for illegal spills and discharges into the environment,” said Sierra Legal Staff Lawyer Dr. Anastasia Lintner. “We hope that the province will use this new tool to send a strong message to polluters – if you pollute, you will pay.”

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