Canada weighs up waste

A Canadian think tank has carried out an audit of hazardous waste produced in Ontario and has concluded that it continues to threaten the province's environment and economy due to gaps in regulation and enforcement.

“Hazardous waste is a problem that continues to require urgent attention not only from environmental and ethical perspectives, but from a cost perspective as well,” says the report from the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP).

“Various negative external costs must be addressed, including water contamination, air pollution, and clean-up costs from accidents.

“Contaminants are also entering the food chain and affecting the health of Ontario residents. This environmental health issue is likely creating significant costs for the public health care system as well as employers.”

As well as detailing shortcomings, CIELAP’s report identifies where the government has made some progress, such as ending land disposal of untreated hazardous waste from large-quantity producers.

“Finally the government of Ontario is taking action on this file; the public understands the need for action but there is unfinished business,” said Anne Mitchell, CIELAP’s executive director.

“CIELAP urges the government to continue its efforts to safely dispose of hazardous waste and promote pollution prevention and toxic product use reduction.”

In 2005 Ontario generated 1,721,240 tonnes of hazardous and liquid industrial waste, marginally less than in 2000 when 1,724,933 tonnes were generated – a disappointing statistic according to the institute.

The top three districts in Ontario that generate hazardous and liquid industrial waste are Ottawa at 250,887 tonnes, Burlington at 233,939 tonnes and Windsor at 187,050 tonnes.

“The Ontario government must provide the resources to implement its most recent hazardous waste management initiatives effectively, and it should address the need for additional laws and policies,” said Maureen Carter-Whitney, CIELAP’s research director and author of the report.

“It is also essential that the public be given easier access to information about hazardous waste generation in Ontario, free of charge.”

David Gibbs

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