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Great Lakes a casualty of Ontario's inaction

TORONTO - Increased pollution of the Great Lakes is among the consequences of Ontario failing to follow through on its environmental promises, the province's environmental commissioner said Wednesday.

TORONTO - Increased pollution of the Great Lakes is among the consequences of Ontario failing to follow through on its environmental promises, the province's environmental commissioner said Wednesday.

In his annual report Gord Miller pointed to several instances where he said political inaction is threatening the environment.

Wetlands are not being protected, companies are able to skirt air quality standard rules and landfill sites are going unchecked, he said.

"The Ministry of the Environment just can't keep track of the condition of the 2,500 or so approved landfill sites in the province and certainly not the 1,000 or so dumps started before the ministry was formed," Miller said.

"We don't know what's going into most of these sites, or scarier still what's coming out."

Municipal wastewater discharges are worsening the pollution of the Great Lakes, because the ministry's rules don't factor in the increasing population of southern Ontario, the commissioner found.

When it comes to air quality, if two or more companies in a sector plead that they can't achieve one of the air quality standards they can instead meet a more relaxed, sector-based standard, Miller said.

"Fair enough, I suppose, but the strange thing is that companies held to the tighter standard have to publicly report on their emissions, but those held to the relaxed standard will not."

Environment Minister John Wilkinson says the government knows there are some air quality standards that are very difficult for industry to meet with today’s technology.

Miller reserved some of his harshest criticisms not for the Ministry of the Environment, but for the Ministry of Natural Resources. That ministry is on the verge of losing control of the public land under its care in the Far North because it has virtually no presence there, he said.

Twice in the past year the ministry has had to shut down private airstrips built on Crown land without permission and mining companies have started staking claims "end on end" for hundreds of kilometres to delineate rail corridors.

"The MNR is clearly understaffed and under-resourced because they're building mining camps and airstrips under their noses, so to speak," he said. "But not under their noses because there are no MNR noses up there."

 
 
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