But federal environment commissioner says the feds did not agree on a toxic waste plan and rely on outdated science
Federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand says the Ford government deliberately didn’t consult with the public about how to deal with the nation’s toxic waste problem.
Gelfand says the Ford government’s approach to the process was “deliberately” avoided public consultations.
“They found a technical solution, they didn’t find a consultative solution and in both cases they relied on scientific data that was outdated and inaccurate,” Gelfand said in an interview on Friday after releasing her report, which is backed by a second report from the federal environment commissioner.
Gelfand’s review found that although the Ford government was prepared to spend $30bn, it has not provided a plan to deal with toxic waste.
She says waste management should include removal and recycling of hydrocarbons, copper, lead, mercury, and other “heavy metals” in abandoned and shuttered sites.
“If you do not deal with this today, it’s going to have severe consequences in the future,” she said.
Gelfand found the Ford government was not consulting enough and said public input was “limited” because many toxic sites had not been marked for exclusion in previous years and were not on the radar of a decade of consultations.
Ford wants to end plastic bags ban, but he’s ignoring the whole planet | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett Read more
“This has seriously undermined their ability to address these sites,” she said.
Gelfand said the Ford government argued a scientific advisory panel provided the best way to deal with toxic waste. The federal commissioner found the panel “makes no recommendations for removal or recycling”, calling it a “problematic approach”.
But the Ford government says the panel recommended to remove the highest priority radioactive waste sites first.
The Ford government’s response states that a key advice from the panel was to “conduct extensive studies on many types of potential materials, sample them and decide from there”.
“The Ontario environmental commissioner and the federal environment commissioner do not appreciate the scale and pace of changing technologies or the uncertainty that exists on the technical feasibility of various removal and recycling options,” the government said.
The federal government’s commissioner also said the city of Toronto used outdated data for a federal survey to compare soil levels with what could potentially be found in polluted areas.
Pollution at work a day after Ford scraps Ontario’s waterfront bike lanes Read more
“When it comes to soil that has been buried for many years, the data sets are quite dated and are based on patterns of how a particular type of material moved underground during construction, rather than historical data to be aware of the different types of pollutants that were present in the area at that time,” the federal commissioner said.
“Those sorts of issues are very complex and we found neither a way to address them appropriately in our interim report nor a commitment to address them.”
The Ford government says it has the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act to guide its decisions.
The Ontario Environmental Protection Act establishes standards and can be strengthened.
“The Progressive Conservative government looks forward to reviewing the Commissioner’s final report and we plan to review all recommendations,” said Brad Duguid, the minister responsible for the environment and climate change.
Toronto’s environmental health officer, Daniele Fini, told the city council’s environment and health committee that 50 to 60 toxic sites are more likely to be contaminated than if left unaddressed.
“It’s just the new issue of a greater risk of risk of causing these sites to further degrade. So the question I ask is: is there any longer a need to move forward?” Fini said.
“We were all asking that question. Our request is that the Ford government take action.”