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Ontario working on right-to-know law for chemicals - TheSpec.com

Apr 12, 2008
Dana Brown
[email protected]

A new toxic reduction law the Ontario government has in the works will have a right-to-know component, but the specifics of the legislation aren't known.

Advocates, including Hamilton city council, have been pushing the province to institute a law that would let people know what chemicals are used and stored in their communities.

Calls were renewed after a toxic blaze at Biedermann Packaging in Dundas last July.

John Steele, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, said he did not know when the legislation might be introduced.

"All we can tell you is that the intention is to develop an information-sharing tool which would allow the public to know about toxics in their community."

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced plans for a toxics reduction strategy, including legislation, last fall. The recent budget set aside about $41 million over four years for the initiative.

Steele said the strategy is in development and the right-to-know part of the legislation will include consultations with industry, environmental experts, municipalities and the general public.

The NDP has put forward right-to-know legislation in the past, but it died on the order paper.

Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, said the Biedermann situation underscores why the legislation is important.

"There's a facility ... surrounded by residential, and you talk to people in Dundas who live a block away from the plant and they had no idea what was happening there," she said.

A report on the July fire by the Ontario's Fire Marshal's Office initially stated firefighters did not know they were dealing with rodent poisons and pesticides on scene. The office later said fire crews did know and the correction will be attached to the final report as an addendum.

Others are moving ahead with their own plans.

Toronto city council has directed staff to draft a right-to-know bylaw that would oversee chemical reporting in the city, said Katrina Miller, campaigns director with the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
Miller said the alliance has been pushing for the bylaw for about eight years and Toronto would become the first place in Canada to have one if it passes this summer.

"One of the things the bylaw does do is require facilities to track their use and storage, so it will provide information about what's on site," Miller said. "And that will be particularly helpful to emergency responders."

She expects the public would have access to chemical information in the city by 2010 at the earliest.


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