Abstract: For more than a decade, Ecojustice has worked with community members from Sarnia and the Aamjiwnaang First Nation (AFN) to reduce industrial air pollution in the Sarnia area. Ecojustice used publically available data to analyze pollution releases by industry in the area, which led to the publication of our 2007 report, Exposing Canada’s Chemical Valley. The report assessed 62 facilities within 25 kilometres of the AFN and brought to light the health concerns of living in one of the most polluted places in Canada. After that report’s publication, Ecojustice undertook litigation on behalf of members of the AFN, engaged in law reform efforts, and used the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights numerous times to address the environmental injustices in Chemical Valley. Now, in 2019, Ecojustice has published a follow-up report, Return to Chemical Valley, which provides an update on industrial air pollution emissions using the 2016 National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) data, and includes analysis of the air quality monitoring data. Since 2007, our efforts have helped to address some key issues, such as the lack of publicly-available air-quality data. Now, near real-time air quality data is available online. Ontario adopted a policy to assess cumulative industrial air pollution and created rules to limit flaring. A benzene air quality standard is forcing the refining and petrochemical industry to reduce fugitive emissions of VOCs such as benzene and report levels at their fence line. Additional technical upgrades will be required when the updated sulphur dioxide standards come into force in 2023.
Brief Bio: Dr. Elaine MacDonald is a Program Director at Ecojustice Canada. Elaine applies her expertise in environmental law and policy with her background in environmental engineering to a wide range of issues impacting our environment and human health, including air and water quality and exposure to toxic chemicals. Elaine leads the Healthy Communities team at Ecojustice, where her team is using the law to challenge all levels of government to protect every Canadian — especially our most vulnerable, children — from illnesses related to harmful chemicals and pollution.