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City should ease polution-control safeguards on businesses: Toronto Water - National Post

November 10, 2011
Peter Kuitenbrouwer
National Post

Big industries in Toronto should no longer have to keep their emissions clean to get a break on their water rates, Toronto Water said yesterday, even as the city division sought to raise water rates for other customers by 9% in 2012.

The proposal to ease up on pollution-control safeguards caught city councillors and environmental activists by surprise at the city’s budget committee Thursday morning.

“Why should we give a preferential rate to customers who are breaking the law?” asked Heather Marshall, who works for the Toronto Environmental Alliance. She said she only learned of the proposal that morning; reports usually drop several days before committee meetings at City Hall, to give those interested the chance to prepare their thoughts.

“It’s saying to industry — it’s okay if you ignore the bylaw, you’ll still get a cheaper rate.”

The current rules say that big industries, known as “Block 2″ water users in the city vernacular, immediately see their water rates rise to prices paid by consumers, if city inspectors find effluents from the plants in excess of city limits.

Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water, said his group only consulted with the Toronto Industry Network on the proposed change.

Mike Williams, the head of the city’s economic development division, suggested that because these big industrial water consumers are “all multinational companies,” the city can trust them to keep their emissions clean.

“The trigger points for bouncing in and out of Block 2 creates an enormous amount of uncertainty in terms of Block 2,” Mr. Williams added. “This is trying to smooth out the issues. They are not trying to avoid these high standards. The way the bylaw works creates a huge scientific challenge. These are huge water users, huge players. We could lose the employment.”

Mr. di Gironimo told the committee that Toronto Water needs a 9% water rate increase to continue fixing a backlog of water and sewer pipes. He also noted that Torontonians are using water more efficiently, and projected a 1.5% annual decrease in water use through 2014.

He said the water rate increase will put the water bill of the average family from $685 this year to $747 in 2012.

As originally published here: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/11/10/city-should-ease-polution-controls-safeguard-on-businesses-toronto-water/

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