Public Values

First of its kind report tracks water pollution caused by air contaminants

Protection plans for drinking water for 11M Ontarians under development.

Many toxic chemicals still being released to water, airA new report released by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Environmental Defence tracks the effects of airborne pollutants on drinking water in Ontario.

The report is the first to map pollution levels for source protection areas and regions in the Great Lakes Basin, which are an important source of drinking water for over 11 million Ontarians, tracking and mapping pollution from facilities reporting to the federal government’s National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) in the province's source protection areas and regions. These facilities release large amounts of chemicals to the air and water and the report recommends that these sources of pollution be included in assessing drinking water threats. While water releases may have been considered in most of the source protection regions, air releases have likely not been considered to date.

  "(T)he report found that facilities in 18 source protection areas and regions released more than 32 million kilograms of toxic chemicals and 722 million kilograms of criteria air contaminants to the air."

"This data from the NPRI is a reliable and valuable information source as to potentially significant sources of pollution to our drinking water in Ontario and should be taken into account as part of the source protection plans currently under development in Ontario," said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of CELA.

Using data submitted to the NPRI in 2007, the report found that facilities in 18 source protection areas and regions released more than 32 million kilograms of toxic chemicals and 722 million kilograms of criteria air contaminants (pollutants that cause smog and acid rain) to the air. The report was prepared as part of the PollutionWatch project.

About 1.5 million kilograms (over 6%) of the chemicals released to the air in source protection areas and regions are known or suspected of causing cancer, while almost 3 million kilograms (9%) of all air releases are known or suspected reproductive and developmental toxins. Examples of chemicals released include benzene and arsenic, both known or suspected carcinogens.

Facilities reporting to the NPRI in source protection areas and regions also reported 54 million kilograms of releases of chemicals to water. Examples of chemicals reported include ammonia, nitrate ion, phosphorus, chlorine, lead and cadmium. About 30% of the chemicals released to water are listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The full report contains additional information which will benefit each of the drinking water source protection areas and regions.

CELA and Environmental Defence are calling on the Ontario government to:

• recognize that air pollution is a major source of chemicals and nutrients to the Great Lakes and needs to be incorporated into Ontario’s drinking water source protection program;

• increase the emphasis on protection of Great Lakes sources in the program;

• renew emphasis on the newer threats to Great Lakes drinking water systems;

• extend source protection coverage to a larger portion of Ontarians whose groundwater comes from private wells and surface water intakes;

• support implementation of the Toxics Reduction Strategy that result in reductions and elimination of toxic chemicals including carcinogens, reproductive developmental toxicants and endocrine disrupters; and,

• increase the use of NPRI data as a source of information in Ontario’s drinking water source protection program.

"The data shows that air pollutants released by facilities are potentially a significant threat to drinking water in Ontario, and should be taken into account by the source protection committees," said Mike Layton, Deputy Outreach Director, Environmental Defence.

Links and sources
  Pollution Watch Report
  Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)
  Environmental Defence

Posted: January 31, 2010

Categories:
  Research
  Natural resources
  Energy

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