ENVIRONMENTAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION & SIERRA LEGAL DEFENCE FUND
Environmental groups press criminal charges against Ontario Government for toxic pollution
On Monday November 17, 1997, a private citizen laid eight charges against the Ontario government under the federal Fisheries Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act for allowing toxic substances, including arsenic and other heavy metals, to pour out of the Deloro Mine site into the Moira River and its tributary Young’s Creek draining into Lake Ontario at Belleville. Janet Fletcher laid the charges on behalf of the Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI), a new citizens-based environmental organization established by the Energy Probe Research Foundation, and with the assistance of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF).
The Deloro site, which is operated by the provincial government, is “Ontario’s most contaminated land” according to a recent Ministry of Environment statement. Emissions from the site include toxic levels of arsenic, copper, cobalt, zinc, and nickel. EBI and SLDF investigators discovered a seepage site with arsenic concentrations as high as 16%, or about 4,800 times the severe biological effect level according the Provincial Sediment Quality Guidelines. The evidence indicates that throughout the last two years, tonnes of arsenic– over 3.27 tonnes in 1996 alone–and other toxic heavy metals have been flowing into the two rivers from the site and have severely damaged fish habitat. The contamination from the Deloro site has reached Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte, 45 kilometres to the south.
“The provincial government has had control of the site for 18 years, and has still not cleaned it up. In fact, the provincial government has even recently asked SLDF, a non-profit charitable organization, to contribute money to fund a cleanup that should be the government’s responsibility,” explained Fletcher.
Mark Mattson, the Executive Director of EBI said, “The Ontario government is slashing funding for environmental protection while destroying fish habitat.” Stewart Elgie, an SLDF lawyer said, “It is a sad day when a private citizen has to prosecute the provincial government, the very body that should be enforcing our environmental laws, for breaking those laws.”
The prosecution seeks a substantial fine to punish and deter the province as well as a court order to cleanup the site. The maximum fines for the offences under the Fisheries Act and the Water Resources Act are over
$1 million. The Province’s first Court appearance will be in Belleville Provincial Court on December 16.