Media Release - Minister ignored inconsistencies and residents

Media release issued Monday November 22, 2010

Minister ignored inconsistencies and residents in incinerator approval

Durham Region, Monday November 22 -- Durham Region residents opposing the Durham-York incinerator were disappointed that the Minister of the Environment ignored the concerns of residents and approved the environmental assessment for the incinerator despite a glaring inconsistency in the air pollution limits.

"Did Minister Wilkinson and the McGuinty government opt to abandon Ontario residents while bending over backwards to accomodate an incinerator operator with a long record of dioxin emission violations", asked Orono resident Linda Gasser. "Is this what Premier McGuinty had in mind when he said Ontario was "open for business"? "

"When Minister Wilinson says the standards are the most stringent in the world, he is throwing up a smokescreen to hide the fact that the Liberal government has watered down proposed guidelines that Ministry of Environment staff indicated could be achieved by "modern" incinerators," says Newcastle resident Wendy Bracken. "On the one hand, this government is trying to shut down coal plants to improve air quality, yet they are inviting highly polluting garbage incinerators that spew carcinogens, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and many other respiratory irritants."

A proposed revision to the Ontario A-7 Guideline in March 2009 aimed to limit emissions of dioxins and furans to 32 pg per cubic meter, however the proposed revision was dropped in the final version published at the end of October 2010. Instead, the old 2004 guideline of 80 pg was kept. The proposed more stringent limit was based on the principle of "maximum available control technology", in other words, what a "state of the art" incinerator should be able to achieve.

Dioxins and furans are known to cause birth and developmental defects in children. The most toxic variant, known as TCDD, is also classified as a Type I carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Residents are also concerned that unelected Durham Region Chair Roger Anderson could sign a contract with Covanta.

"It would be irresponsible to sign a contract before the newly elected council reviews the draft contract and the mechanism to ensure the incinerator's actual performance can be monitored and reported to the public", says Bowmanville resident Louis Bertrand. "The monitoring requirements in the Minister's approval are vague and defer much of the detail to the permit approvals process, which largely excludes the public."

There are no specific requirements to monitor the health and environmental effects of air pollution from the incinerator. There does not appear to be a mechanism to promptly notify the public of malfunctions and emissions exceedances.

It is very telling that Durham Region's press release could not quote any newly elected member of regional council to speak to the Minister's approval. Clarington residents have clearly demonstrated their opposition to the incinerator and elected a mayor and five of six councillors who ran on platforms opposing the incinerator because of public health risks, excessive costs and because burning garbage in inconsistent with the public's -- and supposedly Ontario's -- priorities to reduce, re-use and recycle.

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