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City Urged to Postpone Toxic Chemical Bylaw

June 26, 2008, 04:30 AM
Peter Gorrie, Environmental Reporter

Toronto should wait – but not long – to see what the province has in mind before going ahead with a plan to control toxic chemicals in the environment, the city's chief health official says.

In a report released yesterday, David McKeown, the medical officer of health, proposed a bylaw that would require thousands of businesses to track and publicly report each year how much of the 25 most dangerous chemicals they use.

But McKeown recommended that consideration of the proposed law be delayed until October, while Queen's Park decides on its own promised legislation.

The city "needs to learn more about the province's emerging toxics-use strategy so as to ensure that the proposed Toronto program does not conflict with or duplicate the provincial program," he said in the report, which is to go to the Board of Health on July 3.

If the recommendation is approved then, the issue would go back to the board in October. From there it would go to city council.

Plans had called for the bylaw to go to council in July.

But, McKeown said in an interview, he doesn't want the city to sit on its hands indefinitely.

"If the province is delayed, if we don't have enough information to go on, I'll want to make a recommendation to council to move forward based on what we do know."

"The bylaw is fantastic; it's exactly what we wanted," said Katrina Miller of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

As for timing, "In the fall, Toronto will be moving forward," Miller said. "The city can't wait until the province makes up its mind."

Toronto's bylaw would require businesses to report through the federal National Pollutant Releases Inventory, which tracks chemical use in large industries across Canada, including about 300 in Toronto.

The city's system would add thousands more – including dry cleaners, body shops, funeral parlours, printers and metal platers.

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