According to a report in EcoLog News, the Ontario Ministry of Environment is considering whether the light emitted by reflective glass on buildings should be considered a “discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment” under subsection 14(1) of the province’s Environmental Protection Act (EPA).
Author David Nesseth interviewed Ecojustice lawyer Albert Koehl for the article, which appeared in the 22 February EcoLog newsletter. Koehl was one of the prosecutors in a recent case brought at the Ontario Court of Justice against Cadillac Fairview Corporation over bird deaths at a low-rise property in North Toronto that has reflective glass and is surrounded by mature trees. Hundreds of migratory birds died by flying into the building in 2010. The company was charged under the federal Species at Risk Act as well as Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act and other legislation.
The judge dismissed the charges against Cadillac Faiview partly because the company has spent more than $100,000 in efforts to reduce the danger to birds by installing window film on one side of the complex.
Even though the case was dismissed, Koehl believes that Judge Melvyn Green’s ruling should prompt the Ministry of Environment to view the light from mirrored walls as a contaminant because of the judge’s statement that “reflective glass, in particular creates an illusion of a benign habitat, mirroring the safety of the wooded area from which birds may be flying.” An expert at the trial argued that visible light is a form of radiation and so could fall under the description as an “emission.”
There are several measures available to mitigate the problem of reflective glass, including polka-dot patterned film, physical netting and the application of netting, as well as predator-like decoys.
The city of Toronto’s FLAP bird rescue organization also encourages tall building owners owners to turn off their lights at night as a way of saving migrating birds from collisions.