Ontario to ban untreated toxic waste

Canadian Press
Toronto Star
Sept. 28, 2004

GUELPH Ontario will be the final jurisdiction in North America to introduce a regulation requiring toxic waste to be pre-treated before being dumped, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today.

"Ontario's days as a haven for polluters are coming to an end," McGuinty announced during a Liberal caucus retreat. "We're creating tough new rules that will ban the disposal of untreated hazardous waste in Ontario's landfills."

A dump near Sarnia operated by Clean Harbors Inc. is the only dump in Ontario that accepts untreated hazardous waste from all across North America, including sludge from the Sydney tar ponds in Nova Scotia.

McGuinty said ideally the toxic wastes would be treated on site so they are rendered inert and non-toxic before being shipped to the province. "There are risks posed to the people who live along the corridor where that's being shipped, and the challenges connected with putting it in a hole in the ground here in Ontario," he said.

The proposed regulation will require hazardous waste, including corrosive manufacturing waste and toxic sludges containing heavy metals, to be treated before being dumped. All toxic pollutants will have to be neutralized, immobilized or eliminated before disposal. Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky said the regulation will stop polluters in other provinces and in the U.S. from getting around local pollution laws by sending their untreated waste to the province.

"Ontario will no longer be the dumping ground for untreated hazardous waste that no other jurisdiction in North America would receive," she said. "We are telling hazardous waste generators, including importers, that it is time to improve hazardous waste management in Ontario."

McGuinty blamed lax regulations for the disposal of toxic waste on the previous Conservative government of Mike Harris, saying it ``allowed polluters to simply dispose of hazardous waste untreated."

The New Democrats called the regulation "a no-brainer," and complained that polluters would still be allowed to deduct any environmental fines from their corporate taxes. "The first thing they need to do on top of this announcement today is get rid of that loophole," said deputy NDP leader Marilyn Churley.

A spokesman for the premiers' office said the province would introduce legislation this fall to close the loophole and stop companies from deducting environmental fines. Churley also said she's worried the new regulation could lead to more burning of toxic wastes in Ontario because the province hasn't invested in upgraded waste treatment technology. "There are much more advanced technologies that have been around for a long time, like thermal treatment" of the waste said Churley. "It's just such a baby-step today."