Application for Investigation Prompts Better Sewage Management in Provincial Parks

In February 2010, two applicants requested that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) investigate alleged contraventions of multiple acts, regulations and approvals related to sewage works in Ontario’s provincial parks. The applicants alleged that Ontario Parks—a branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry responsible for administering and operating provincial parks—was failing to comply with requirements for basic maintenance of sewage works, discharging untreated sewage into the natural environment, and altering sewage works without appropriate approvals.

The MOECC agreed to undertake the requested investigation. In September 2010 it reported to the applicants on the outcome of the investigation, which comprised reviewing the application, ministry records, and operations at 12 provincial parks identified in the application, as well as conducting inspections at those parks. While the MOECC found that Ontario Parks has a comprehensive plan for reviewing the operations of its parks, including its sewage facilities the ministry identified several issues of non-compliance, some of which were related to the applicants’ allegations. The ministry nevertheless did not find “evidence of serious environmental impacts or immediate danger to public health and safety.”

As a result of the investigation, the MOECC instructed park staff to undertake actions to address issues of non-compliance by specified deadlines, and advised that a Provincial Officer would follow up to ensure timely compliance. The MOECC also encouraged park staff to undertake additional actions to enhance their current practices. Finally, MOE committed to providing the applicants with an update by March 2011 on progress made by Ontario Parks in fulfilling the required actions and recommendations. In April 2011, the MOECC wrote to the applicants to report that Ontario Parks had completed all of the work required to bring each park into compliance.

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