According to Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), the “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generation, A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan,” is a “…clean break from the status quo.”
According to Mr. Phillips, “We understand the pressure Ontarians feel with rising costs of living as well as skyrocketing energy costs that have hurt our economy and our competitiveness. They are understandably frustrated to see their hard-earned tax-dollars being put towards policies and programs that don’t deliver results.”
With this opening statement, the MECP is providing an indication that the change in name (from Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to MECP) was not just window dressing. Time will tell whether the new administration and new plan actually “deliver results” and provide the desired outcomes for Ontarians
For those interested in weighing in on the MECP’s plan, you have until January 28, 2019, to provide comments.
Below are the primary areas in the MECP’s plan:
- Our Province Today
- Protecting our Air, Lakes, and Rivers
- Addressing Climate Change
- Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities and Keeping Our Land and Soil Clean
- Conserving Land and Greenspace
- Next Steps
Among the Guiding Principles for the Plan are (1) Clear Rules and Strong Enforcement, (2) Trust and Transparency, and (3) Resilient Communities and Local Solutions.
Much of the plan discusses how Ontario will address the issue of climate change under the new administration. However, there are at least a couple of other areas that are worth noting.
Real-Time Reporting of Municipal Sewage Overflows
The problems associated with our aging infrastructure and sewer overflows into our waterways have been discussed in our past blogs. This problem of raw sewage flowing into our waterways is an issue across North America. According to an article in the Midland Mirror, in 2017-2018, there were 1,327 bypasses (of sewage into waterways) reported in Ontario. And in the US (in 2016), the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the number of sewage overflows nationwide was somewhere between 23,000 and 75,000.
These overflows have a direct impact on human health and the environment as well as an economic impact. These overflows also contribute nutrients to the growing algal blooms in waterways that are a systemic problem worldwide.
As outlined in the MEPC plan, “We will also work with municipalities and other partners to increase transparency through real-time monitoring of the sewage overflows from municipal wastewater systems, which too often flow into Ontario’s lakes and rivers. We must step up efforts to ensure the public is aware and that proper monitoring occurs.”
Addressing our aging infrastructure is important, expensive, and will not be a “quick fix.”
Management of Contaminated Soils
The MECP’s plan includes a discussion (albeit brief) with respect to clean soil. “Rural and urban communities benefit from healthy soil and land. Soils with contaminants need to be cleaned up to ensure new home owners or property users are safe and contaminated soil are not relocated to farms where our food is grown.”
This issue of management of soils, excess soils in particular, is something we have talked about many times in the past. In an article we wrote a couple of years ago, we stated, “Improper management of excess soils is a province-wide issue. Soils that are impacted with contaminants (natural or man made) can end up being transported and applied to a sensitive site, farmland, or residential development” (see Environmental Science and Engineering, “How will Ontario’s proposed excess soil management policy work?”).
Reducing Cost, Brownfields, and Record of Site Conditions
As pointed out in the plan, a clear soil management policy can help reduce construction cost and reduce unnecessary landfilling of soil.
The MECP plan includes a mention of Brownfields and the need to clean up historical contamination while putting these sites back into “good use.” The MECP states that, according to the plan, one of the actions will be to, “Revise the brownfields regulation and the record of site condition guide to reduce barriers to redevelop and revitalize historically contaminated lands…”
These are only a few of the issues we noted in the plan, and we, again, encourage you to read the plan.
If you need help with soil/groundwater assessment/remediation, an environmental permit, or if you have a question about an environmental issue, you can contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 114.