Central Theme: “Having regard” to Provincial Policy Statements includes having regard to the capability of land to support the demands being placed on it. Provincial ministries and agencies involved in land use planning must recognize there are limits to the growth and development that can be placed on Ontario’s landscape beyond which there will be serious damage to basic ecological processes.
Management of Septage and Sewage Sludges: There have been many complaints from Ontarians about the Ministry of the Environment’s enforcement of the regulations for applying sewage sludges and septage from septic tanks and portable toilets to farmland. These residues contain nutrients that contaminate waterways, live pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, and trace contaminants such as heavy metals. Nearby residents say, for instance, that MOE does not adequately monitor the volumes being applied to land nor hold back spreading until their quality is tested. The ECO has found there are significant weaknesses in the rules themselves – for example, there is no protection for groundwater recharge areas, no public notice of spreading sites, no requirements for operator training, and no prohibition against application of these materials to frozen soil.
Compliance with the 3R Regulations and the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Sectors: An ECO research project carried out during 2000/2001 revealed that the Ministry of the Environment is neither promoting nor ensuring compliance with Ontario’s 3R regulations – to reduce, reuse and recycle – in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. Among the research findings: Ontario is lagging behind other provinces in reaching waste-diversion targets; large commercial and multi-family buildings are not participating in 3R programs; and many businesses are not even aware of the regulations. In spite of a severe shortage of waste disposal capacity in Ontario, large quantities of valuable recyclable material are being landfilled. Landfill disposal rates for aluminum, for example, which can be recycled with great efficiency, increased from 0.01 to 1.6 kg per capita from 1992 to 1996. Because of the high energy consumption and production of greenhouse gases involved in manufacturing aluminum, landfilling this material comes at considerable cost to the environment.
Cage Aquaculture: Growing fish in net pens or cages in the bays of the Great Lakes is a fast-growing industry. Land-based fish culture must comply with mandatory environmental requirements that do not always apply to cage culture, where polluting wastes are released directly into the water, sometimes leading to oxygen depletion and the death of native fish. Since cage aquaculture is expected to continue to increase in Ontario, the ECO believes it is essential that provincial ministries and agencies work together to ensure the industry is sufficiently regulated to protect the environment.
Prescribing the Ministry of Education under the EBR: Although the core mandate of the Ministry of Education is not environmental, the ECO believes that it should become subject to the Environmental Bill of Rights. The effectiveness of the EBR depends on informed public understanding of environmental issues, which can be fostered through education. Since the Ministry of Education has now taken on a larger role in developing curriculum, prescribing it under the EBR would make the ministry’s decisions about environmental education more accountable and transparent to the public.
Fisheries Act Contraventions: The Ministry of Natural Resources has released the results of its investigation of three EBR applications, submitted more than four years ago, alleging that Ontario Hydro had discharged large quantities of metal contaminants into Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Clair River. The ECO is concerned with the ministry’s decision not to charge Ontario Hydro under the Fisheries Act, since Ontario Hydro knowingly continued to release these substances into the water even after the problem was discovered in 1981.