January 3, 2005

PollutionWatch analysis shows pollution prevention remains elusive goal

Canadian industries spewed out more than four billion kilograms of pollutants to the air, land and water in 2002 (the latest year for which data are available), releasing 92% of the total into the air (3.87 billion kg). Included were criteria air contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide, says a new national report by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). The findings presented in Shattering the Myth of Pollution Progress in Canada indicate that pollution prevention remains an elusive goal in Canada.

The report contains the results of an analysis of pollution data submitted by industry to Environment Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). This analysis was completed using the newly-updated www.PollutionWatch.org, an interactive Web site developed as a joint initiative by CELA and Environmental Defence to track pollution across Canada.

Using www.PollutionWatch.org, the report found that releases and transfers of pollutants increased 49% between 1995 and 2002. Releases of pollutants to the air rose by 21%, while releases to water increased by 137%. These time trend statistics are based on a core set of 160 chemicals that industry reported to NPRI consistently over eight years. They do not include criteria air contaminants, which were reported for the first time in 2002, nor do they include recycling or energy recovery data.

Focusing on a core group of facilities which have reported each year since 1995 on the core group of chemicals, the analysis again reported increases in pollution-11% for air releases, 27% for water releases and 15% for overall releases and transfers. The report further noted that while air releases of carcinogens and of chemicals designated as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) have decreased, by 22% and 4% respectively, air releases of pollutants associated with reproductive and developmental harm have risen by 10% between 1995 and 2002. Overall releases and transfers of CEPA toxics also increased by 6% during the same period.

Shattering the Myth of Pollution Progress in Canada also lists the top ten facilities emitting PM 2.5, the size of particulate matter of most concern for human health, into the air in 2002 (as reported to the NPRI). They include:

1. SaskPower's Boundary Dam power station (2,717,723 kg)

2. Inco's Copper Cliff smelter complex (2,545,840 kg)

3. Ontario Power Generation's Nanticoke generating station (2,224,400 kg)

4. Kimberly-Clark's Ontario facility (1,256,636 kg)

5. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's Holyrood thermal generating station (1,194,000 kg)

6. Weyerhaeuser Canada's Kamloops, BC pulp division (1,188,415 kg)

7. TransAlta's Sundance thermal generating plant (1,124,930 kg)

8. IMC Canada's Potash Belle Plaine facility in Saskatchewan (1,067,400 kg)

9. IMC Potash's K2 Plant in Saskatchewan (873,600 kg)

10. Stelco's Hamilton operation (866,554 kg)

The two groups deplore the continuing high level of pollution in Canada and the lack of progress in preventing it. Our current method of regulating chemicals is not producing results, states the report, which urges immediate action, led by the federal government, to significantly reduce pollution across Canada. PollutionWatch proposes a series of goals for the reduction and elimination of pollutants, specifically:

- virtual elimination of releases of carcinogens to the air and water by 2008;

- an interim target of 50% reduction in releases of CEPA toxics to the air and water by 2008;

- an interim target of 50% reduction in releases of respiratory toxins to the air by 2008; and

- an interim target of 50% reduction in releases of pollutants known to cause developmental and reproductive harm to the air and water by 2008.

Pollution prevention, adds the report, needs to be the driving force for facilities and governments to take action on pollution. P2 should be seen as an industrial strategy capable of enhancing industrial efficiency (and consequently, competitiveness) while minimizing or eliminating the generation of pollutants.

Finally, PollutionWatch calls for the improvement and expansion of the NPRI as an essential tool for advancing the understanding of pollution in Canada. Measures such as increasing the number of chemicals reported, expanding reporting to new secgorrs, improving the coverage of facilities and decreasing reporting thresholds would contribute to the effectiveness and relevance of the NPRI.

Shattering the Myth of Pollution Progress in Canada may be viewed on the PollutionWatch web site, www.PollutionWatch.org. The data presented on the PollutionWatch site have been compiled by Environment Canada from industry sources, available at www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/npri.

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