Canadian Consulting Engineer

Canadian plants register poor performance in controlling toxic chemical emissions

Canada's reputation as an environmentally benign country has taken another battering after a recent study found tha...

April 21, 2003   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Canada’s reputation as an environmentally benign country has taken another battering after a recent study found that we export more toxic chemicals to the United States than we import.
The results were recorded by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in its annual Taking Stock Report. It found that the U.S. has reduced the amount of chemicals it exports to Canada by 43% between 1998 and 2000, but Canadian facilities sent roughly 36,000 tonnes south across the border — an amount equal to the amount of transfers from the U.S. to Mexico. The amount of exports from Mexico to the U.S. is not known.
The report had some good news and some bad news. The good news is that overall North America has reduced industrial releases and transfers of chemicals by 5% in the six years from 1995 to 2000. Decreases have been most dramatic in the U.S. where on-site air releases dropped 31% over six years.
However, the improvements came from the largest facilities, while the group of 15,000 smaller manufacturing, power and waste disposal facilites are polluting more. The report says that in Canada, the “small p” polluters — those that transfer or release up to 100,000 tonnes of chemicals — registered a 66% increase in chemical releases and transfers from 1998 to 2000.
“It’s very discouraging to see such a large number of facilities report releasing more pollution in our environment, since they are found in communities across the continent,” said Victor Shantora, acting executive eirector for the Commissoin. “The small ‘p’ polluter might not grab the same headlines as a large power plant or chemical manufacturer, but their effect is being felt throughout the North American environment.”
The 3,600 larger facilities — those reporting more than 100 tonnes of chemical releases and transfers — recorded a 7% reduction in pollutants. However, they still account for 90% of the total pollution, with hydrochloric acid credited for the largest amount of releases.
All told, the report found more than 3.3 million tonnes of chemicals released and transferred in 2000, including known carcinogens and substances linked to birth defects. And Ontario was one of the six worst polluting jurisdictions. The Canadian province, together with Texas, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana, accounted for 37% of the total releases that year, with reports in excess of 165,000 tonnes of chemical releases and transfers each.
The report is the seventh in the Taking Stock series. It matched 206 chemicals from the national pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTR) from Canada and the United States to present common 2000 data, as well as three and six-year overviews. Mexico did not require mandatory reporting in 2000, but the country is currently developing a mandatory and publicly accessible PRTR.
www.cec.org, www.ec.gc.ca, www.epa.gov


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