Canada Sparkles in Cutting Water Pollution, Air Murkier

June 1, 2000
Canada has successfully cut water\r\npollution but its efforts on air are a little cloudy, according to the Commission for Environmental\r\nCo-operation.

Canada has an impressive record when it comes to cutting water pollution but its efforts on air are a little cloudy, according to data published Tuesday by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation.

Canadian industrial facilities cut surface water discharges by almost two-thirds from 1995 to 1997, according to the tri-national agency set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Facilities in the United States cut water discharges by only 13.7 percent during the same time period, according to the annual Taking Stock report, the most comprehensive database available on North American pollution.

Mark Winfield, researcher for the Canadian Institute on Environmental Law and Policy, attributed Canada''s better showing to federal regulations on pulp and paper production, introduced in the early 1990s.

"That was the last industrial pollution control initiative that the federal government undertook -- nearly a decade ago," said Winfield. "This, of course, has been spectacularly successful. What I take from it is that regulation works."

Richard Descarries of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association said the improvement is due to a combination of new regulations, environmental pressure and a drive for economic efficiency.

Overall, however, pollution trends documented in the report are not so positive.

Despite massive efforts to control industrial pollution through new technology, voluntary campaigns and tighter laws, total releases from industrial sites rose 1.2 percent over the 1995 to 1997 period.

Approximately 128 million kilograms of substances known or suspected of causing cancer were released in 1997 alone, according to the commission''s report.

Ontario dropped to third from second place in the ranking of worst polluters, after Texas and Pennsylvania, mainly due to increased releases in Pennsylvania, rather than improvement in the province.

Direct releases of pollution to air, land and water declined, but that was more than offset by a sharp rise -- 31 percent for Canada -- in pollutants taken away for disposal.

An off-site transfer could result in pollution being dumped into a landfill or sewage system, burnt in an incinerator, treated to remove its toxic elements or recycled.

There is no way of knowing from current data what proportion of the waste met which fate.

Janine Ferrett, executive director of the Commission for Environmental Co-operation, said the increase in total pollution is disturbing but more time is needed to tell whether it is a trend.

The report does not cover pollution from Mexico, which does not yet have adequate monitoring systems to provide reliable data. Nor does the report cover pollution from vehicles and other small sources.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

Sponsored Recommendations

10 Facts About the State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

July 12, 2024
Workplace safety in the U.S. has improved over the past 50 years, but progress has recently stalled. This report from the AFL-CIO highlights key challenges.

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!