Durham Region environmental groups react to Certificates of Approval

This media release was issued Wednesday June 29 jointly by
ZeroWaste4ZeroBurning.ca
DurhamEnvironmentWatch.org
DurhamCLEAR.ca

ONTARIO MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT IGNORED PUBLIC INPUT BEFORE APPROVING DURHAM INCINERATOR

Durham Region, June 29, 2011 -- The Ontario Ministry of the Environment appears to have ignored citizen and host community input and fast-tracked the Certificate of Approval for the Durham incinerator project, say its opponents. The approval could be a signal to the industry that Ontario is "open to polluters".

"The timeline was just too tight for proper consideration of the comments", says Clarington resident Kerry Meydam. The public comment period on the Ministry's Environmental Registry web site ended June 9, the host community submitted its peer review report June 20, and the approval was communicated to Durham Region June 28.

"This was the beachhead the incinerator industry was looking for in Ontario", says Durham resident Durham resident Linda Gasser, who has followed the project since 2006.

"I am concerned that if Durham Council moves forward with the incinerator, and there are many reasons why they should not, including excessive costs and health risks, this could open up the floodgates for other incinerator projects across the province and across Canada", says Gasser. "The Durham incinerator is a risky, inefficient and expensive disposal option. Up to 56,000 metric tonnes -- some 40 per cent of the material burned -- will still end up in landfills in New York State".

Through a technicality, the approval allows for one pollutant -- fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 -- to be emitted at more than twice the concentration that was considered in the environmental assessment. There was no medical study of the risk to human health due to the additional emissions as part of the certificates of approval applications. Although the Ministry is revising its emission source testing code to close the loophole, the new version may not apply to this certificate. PM2.5 is known as a "non-threshold" pollutant, meaning that there is no safe level of exposure.

"It worries me that the risk to human health was not re-evaluated with the higher emission figures", says Clarington resident Wendy Bracken, who studied the air quality data for the environmental assessment and the emissions summary dispersion modelling report for the certificate application. "We're already breathing seriously polluted air, as their own study showed. It's irresponsible to add even more pollutants without a clear understanding of the consequences".

The Municipality of Clarington, host community for the project designated for the Lake Ontario waterfront in Courtice, had requested the opportunity to review the draft certificate. At this time, it appears that the Ministry ignored the request.

The Certificate of Approval has not been posted to the Ministry of the Environment web site. It is available on the project web site: http://www.durhamyorkwaste.ca/pdfs/project/certApproval/CofA.pdf

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