March 7, 2005

Sarnia plants take three spots on top ten list of Ontario respiratory polluters

Three out of the top ten facilities whose air emissions are linked to respiratory illnesses are located in the Sarnia, Ontario area, according to a list released last week by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Environmental Defence.

Ontario Power Generation's Lambton generating station is third on the top ten, Imperial Oil's Sarnia refinery is No 5, and Shell Canada's Sarnia manufacturing centre stands at No 8. The groups note that these three Sarnia area facilities together contribute in excess of 16% of the more than 605 million kilograms (kg) of suspected respiratory toxicants released by the top ten Ontario facilities.

CELA and Environmental Defence developed the Top 10 Ontario Respiratory Polluters list from their Web site,, which uses the most recent finalized federal government data to rank facilities reporting releases and transfers of pollutants across Canada. The Top 10 list is based on 2002 data provided by industries to Environment Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). This was the first year for which facilities reporting to the NPRI were required to provide data on their releases of air pollutants known to cause smog, acid rain and respiratory illnesses.

The Sarnia facilities in the list reported releases of sulfur dioxide (a respiratory irritant associated with acid rain), oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter (associated with smog, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses), and carbon monoxide (a toxic compound linked to respiratory illnesses). Many of these substances are classified as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

The full Top 10 list, with total releases of respiratory illness-linked emissions, is as follows.

1. Inco's Copper Cliff smelter complex, in Copper Cliff: 243,097,522 kg

2. Ontario Power Generation's Nanticoke generating station, in Haldimand: 144,122,635 kg

3. Ontario Power Generation's Lambton generating station, in Courtright: 52,878,144 kg

4. Falconbridge's smelter complex in Falconbridge: 42,720,942 kg

5. Imperial Oil's refinery in Sarnia: 30,732,325 kg

6. Stelco's facility in Hamilton: 26,005,065

7. Ontario Power Generation's Lakeview generating station, in Mississauga: 22,078,858 kg

8. Shell Canada's Sarnia manufacturing centre, in Corunna: 15,737,839 kg

9. Imperial Oil's Nanticoke refinery, in Haldimand: 15,277,175 kg

10. St Mary's Cement facility in Bowmanville: 13,281,723 kg

"This list shows that coal power plants, chemical manufacturing and petroleum refining are responsible for much of the poor air quality across this province, and industries in Sarnia are significant contributors," said Dr Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.

The PollutionWatch partners are calling on the Sarnia-based industries and the Ontario and federal governments to focus more attention on measures to prevent pollution, in keeping with a key requirement of Canada's national Pollution Prevention Strategy and CEPA.

"While industry has invested in improving technology to reduce emissions to the environment, more resources and commitment are needed to promote cleaner technology, including a shift from end-of-pipe controls to looking at the source of the pollution," said Dr Smith.

The groups are also recommending that governments put strong environmental laws in place to address sources of pollution with an effective enforcement component to ensure accountability. One step in the right direction, they note, is Ontario's Bill 133, which would levy stiff penalties against companies that allow spills into the environment.

"The data shows that there's still work to be done. By reducing pollution, facilities will help the environment, the community and the economic bottom line," observed CELA executive director Paul Muldoon. "Both federal and provincial governments will have to work harder to prevent pollution. The federal law, CEPA, needs more teeth to implement pollution prevention. And while Bill 133 is a great first step in Ontario, the province needs a clear strategy for pollution prevention," he added.

The PollutionWatch Web site ( tracks pollution across Canada based on data collected by Environment Canada through the NPRI. (It should be noted that NPRI does not include pollution data from all chemicals or sources.) The site contains data showing pollution trends from 1995-2002 and provides access to "quick lists" of the largest polluters in the country. It allows visitors to use a postal code-based search to find out which companies in their home towns are the biggest polluters, or create their own ranked lists of polluters by province, industrial sector, or corporation.

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