NOTE: WATCH the Conference LIVE on the Web at:
By CATHY DOBSON
POINT EDWARD — No new industries that produce toxic emissions
should be approved for Sarnia-Lambton until improvements are made to
existing facilities, the senior scientist at Ecojustice Canada said
And that includes the massive refinery proposed by Shell Canada
for St. Clair Township, said Elaine MacDonald, co-author of an alarming
study that investigated the cumulative effect of air pollution in
The study found 62 large industrial facilities within 25
kilometres of Sarnia released more than 131,000 tonnes of air pollution
in 2005, the most recent year that data is available.
Sarnia residents are exposed to more toxic pollutants than any other community in Ontario, MacDonald said.
“Shell will add more pollution into the airshed even if it is a modern facility.”
Shell officials have said some units at the existing plant will
shut down if a new plant is built, but the community needs details,
“Shell needs to be more clear about what they will be doing
with their existing operation, which is even closer to the
(Aamjiwnaang) reserve,” she said during a three-day symposium on the
local environment and human health.
“We need to decide if that’s an appropriate facility for this
area. It may well be that this area can’t afford to have any more air
emissions without reductions elsewhere.”
MacDonald said the concentration of petrochemical plants creates a cumulative effect unlike any other place in Canada.
“For the most part, we don’t understand the effects on people’s
health. We need a comprehensive community-led health study to get that
information,” she said.
“Until we know what’s going on, no new pollution discharges should be approved in this area.”
The symposium is hosted by the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which
has concerns about skewed sex ratios, respiratory problems, cancer and
elevated rates of infant mortality.
Scientists are here from across North America to present study results on environmental pollution.
While no link can be established between serious health issues
and the substances emitted from Chemical Valley, Aamjiwnaang Chief
Chris Plain said there’s enough evidence to support his band’s
Aamjiwnaang band council passed a motion in December to oppose
any new industry that has a negative impact on the First Nation and its
members, Plain said.
“Our airshed is overburdened. We need a game plan to decide what to do next.”
During their opening remarks, Plain and Mayor Mike Bradley said
a balance must be found between economic development and what’s good
for human health.
“Prosperity and the environment should not be competing
interests,” Bradley said. He called on Health Canada to make a
commitment to fund a broad-based community health study. It’s been two
years since a local group began advocating for the money, he said.
An alliance with Sarnia-Lambton, the government, First Nations and industry is urgently needed, Bradley added.
Health Canada provided partial funding for the symposium and
sent a representative. But the federal official told The Observer he
was not able to comment publicly.
Ecojustice Canada has been critical of the federal government
for its silence on the issue. On Wednesday, MacDonald also urged the
province to take a bigger role in establishing and enforcing
She also took industry to task for not responding to inquiries from Ecojustice Canada about pollution prevention activities.
Nothing beyond employee training is being reported, she said.
“We didn’t see anything like modification to their processes or
substitution for materials that are known toxins. Nothing around spills
prevention or vapour capture . . . if they are doing those things they
should be reporting it.”
The symposium continues today with about 80 people
participating from the First Nations, scientific community,
environmental groups and government.