(Incredible but true)
The Lafarge case is one part of a bigger picture that has emerged here in Eastern Ontario in the past few years with respect to hazardous waste treatment facilities that have been approved by the regulator, the Ontario Ministry of Environment. This is a short recent history of hazardous waste treatment facilities in Eastern Ontario.
There are 4 cases: (1) 1999, Cornwall PCB incinerator; (2) 2001, Trenton Norampac Steam Reformer, (3) ?2002, Picton Essroc Cement Kiln, and (4) 2004, Lafarge Bath Cement Kiln.
The first of these was the Cornwall case . In 1999 an Environmental Review Tribunal was held in Cornwall to consider a proposal to burn high level PCB's in a small furnace. These furnaces were built by United Group, Topeka, Kansas. They are not used in U.S. for high level pcb destruction as they were designed to handle anything up to 499 ppm. But in Cornwall, (80 miles north east of Kingston) the application was for approval to burn up to 30,000 ppm pcb.
The ERT met as required, as the process involved incineration. It was chaired by Pauline Browes, a politician appointed at the time by Premier Harris. One party who appeared was Dr. Paul Connett , an academic chemist from New York State. Dr. Connett raised many strong technical objections to the proposal. Chairman Browes in her summary of the hearings said, "I was moved by the fact that many residents, including many community leaders, expressed their objection to the proposed additional wastes, particularly PCBs, being incinerated."
That being said, the Tribunal approved the application. Their comment was that"there is no evidence that the facility will worsen the health of people living in Cornwall." Dr. Connett in turn produced a detailed Appeal of the decision, despite which the application was ultimately approved by an Order in Council of the Ontario Cabinet.
The next, second, case came in 2001 with the application to operate the Steam Reformer in Trenton by Norampac. The purpose of the Steam Reformer is to burn waste black liquor which contains low levels of dioxins. All parties concerned had accepted this as a good compromise solution to the problem of what to do with the waste, which had previously been spread around the roads of the watershed as a dust suppressant called Dombind.
However public interest was stimulated once again when Norampac made it known that they also had plans to use the excess capacity of the Steam Reformer for the treatment of other imported Hazardous Waste. For this reason a local Public Interest Group (Quinte Watershed Cleanup) organized the November 2001 Trenton Forum to hear the pros and cons of such a process. Invited to participate in the public forum were: (1) the proponent, Norampac, (2) the regulator, the MoE, (3) Mr. Robert Argue, a waste reduction consultant and founder of Quinte Waste Solutions, and (4) Dr. Connett. Chairman was Mr. Terry Cassidy, a local municipal politician.
The meeting was very well attended, indeed it was a full house that evening.Unfortunately the proponent, Norampac, found themselves unable to attend despite repeated invitations.They did send along a nice three ring binder with some glossy pictures of the Reformer and some flow diagrams of the process. Equally, or perhaps more, unfortunately neither could the MoE attend. They offered three different reasons on three different occasions. So two of the four chairs remained empty during the three hour meeting. However despite the absence of the two principals it was an interesting meeting nevertheless.
The PIG subsequently complained to the government about the no show of the MoE at the forum. As a result, the Minister and Deputy Premier at the time, Hon. Elizabeth Witmer, ordered that a meeting be held between the PIG and the MoE. That meeting occurred almost one year later, in October 2002 in Belleville. From that meeting came a letter from the new Minister of Environment, Hon Chris Stockwell in which he stated, in response to our questions, that
- the Reformer was not to be classified as an incinerator, the reason being that it was considered by the regulator to be part of an industrial process (although the implication was that if built in your own back yard it would considered an incinerator);
- that it was not an experimental, pilot project (although the Minister did allow that there was actually no emissions data generated from the so called pilot project in Baltimore);
- that the operation would be very closely monitored (although after 4 years of operation there has been no information on dioxin emissions provided by the regulator.)
We also received a letter from Mr. Michael Williams, (Mr. James O'Mara's predecessor at the Approvals Branch) in which he reassured us that: "Should Norampac propose to process imported hazardous waste material, they would be required to obtain approval under the EPA. (Furthermore,) should the process involve incineration, a hearing before the Environmental Review Tribunal would be required before approval could be provided."
Which leads us to the next, third, case, Essroc. At some point along the way ( ? 2002) Essroc quietly received approval to burn TDF at their Picton plant. When asked about the process by which this approval occurred, James O'Mara, now Director, Env Assessment & Approvals Branch, noted that Essroc had to comply with O Reg 346, (General Air Pollution regulations) as well as other guidelines including A-7 "Combustion and Air Pollution Control Requirements for New Municipal Waste Incinerators,and F-1 "Particulate Emissions at New Cement Plants.
According to Sierra LD , there was no public response to the Essroc application during the interval of posting for public comment under the EBR. So the application for approval was a slam dunk for Essroc. But Mr. Williams' earlier letter raises a question about how an ERT hearing was bypassed in this case.
Finally, the fourth case, Lafarge. First of all, their application to burn TDF and other alternative fuels; then, the failure of the MoE to respond to the28 point October 2004 public health document from the Hastings Prince Edward Acting Medical Officer of Health, despite their statutary obligation to do so; then, the approval of the application in November 05 without an EA; and finally the discovery that Lafarge has lately been importing and burning hazardous waste from the United States apparently with the approval of the MoE but unannounced to the public.
And this brings us back to the Trenton Forum of 2001.
Dr. Connett did address the Nov 2001 Trenton Forum at length. He commented on the Steam Reformer, on his earlier experience in Cornwall, and on the Ontario MoE. His comments are repugnant, but given the recent experience in Bath these comments may still be relevant five years later.
"The government has decimated the MoE. You had so many good people in that agency. They don't have the resources that they, even if they had the will, that they could monitor this facility (referring to the Trenton Steam Reformer.) With that decimation has come an enormous amount of cowardice, inasmuch as you don't have a Ministry of Environment, you have a ministry which is subservient to economic interests. It should be called the Ministry of Economic Development. And they are going to rubber stamp whatever it is that industry wants to do.... And now the MoE is simply a rubber stampfor economic interests in this province. That is very very sad.
"I'm not happy about that, but I witnessed it in Cornwall, where when I closed my eyes I could not tell the difference between the lawyers which were representing the companies which were burning up to 30,000 ppm of PCBs in a little rinky dink, Mickey Mouse copper recycling furnace.....In the United States you have to get a TOSCA permit to burn over 50 ppm of PCB's, in Cornwall they gave a permit to a little copper recycling furnace to burn 30,000 ppm, and when we went to the public hearings the MoE was working for the Company,so we had the lawyers for the company and experts for the company, then you had lawyers with the MoE working for the company and experts for the MoE testifying for the company, and then we had citizens flailing there."
"...What do I suggest then in the face of this thing. Two things. One, I don't think that you should mess around with the Ministry of the Environment. They are not going to be able to protect you. Forget it. Even if they wanted to they don't have the money, they don't have the manpower to come here to check up on what they are doing. They are talking about ONE DATA POINT, GIVE ME A BREAK.(Here he is referring to the MoE's proposed plan of monitoring by measuring dioxin emissions at the Reformer stack once a year.) That is not only lousy science it is lousy mathematics. How can you do statistical analysis on one data point? How do you know the variation on one data point? And this reading taken under ideal circumstances, on one data point. Give me a break. It's pathetic. Anyway, so forget the Ministry of Environment...............
"....The second thing is, and this is where the Ministry of Environment may come in, if they are going to do it, for goodness sake do it scientifically. ..."(and here he went on to describe what would be an adequate emissions monitoring program.) And those are the two things that I would recommend."
One further case, in a neighbouring jurisdiction, suggests that the Ontario MoE may in part be modeling its approach on that of the U. S. regulators. Just 120 miles due east of Kingston at Ticonderoga, New York, on the border with Vermont both the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal US EPA have approved the burning of TDF by International Paper at its mill in Ticonderoga. But the adjacent state of Vermont is not happy about it. Vermont Governor Jim Douglas and Attorney General William Sorrell said on Sept 11 that they would continue their legal battle to stop this plan. (Albany Times Union, Sept 12) Governor Douglas noted that the state of Vermont had offered to pay for up-to-date pollution control equipment but that International Paper had refused to engage in serious discussion about Vermont's concerns. Democrat Sorrell joined with Republican Douglas in denouncing the tire burning plan: "No tires will be burned without a fight, a big fight."
In conclusion, back here in Ontario one has to wonder if the wrong government department is regulating industrial air emissions in our province. A reading of the three MoE supporting documents for the recent reforms in regulation of industrial air emissions in Ontario suggests that the MoE has a rather simplistic theory of human health. According the MoE system there are two kinds of human disease. The first disease is called "cancer", and the second disease is called "everything else".
First of all, Cancer risk, which they calculate using the usual incomprehensible and malleable Risk Assessment formulas to establish that less than one person per million population is affected by any single chemical from any single facility. Secondly, "Everything else" they reduce to a so called Hazard Analysis quotient. This approach appears to be very crude, given the current understanding of the complex effects of air pollution on human health.
It seems that the Ministry of Health and the Public Health departments should be playing a much more active role in these matters. But at present the health experts appear to be sitting on the bench, over on the sidelines. This is unfortunate because there is a wealth of talent in the Ontario public health system. These are the people who know the most about human health. The MoE are ultimately not the people who are most knowledgeable about human disease. Public interest groups need somehow to get the Ontario Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario to engage this matter in a serious way.