Thursday, November 21, 2013


Yesterday's Waterloo Region Record carrys this story "Toxic sites a huge health risk: report". I would dispute this list if it were based upon different factors. For example if it were based upon the sheer toxicity of the substances involved I suspect both the Love Canal in Niagara Falls New York and Chemtura Canada in Elmira, Ontario would make the list. Instead the authors have factored in the toxins themselves (all bad), life expectancy of locals and the number of people affected. Based on those criteria Russia has two of the top ten spots, Africa has three and Indonesia two. The remaining three are in the Ukraine, Argentina and Bangladesh.

The top ten list includes dump sites as well as river basins with massive industrial drainage of chemical wastes. Heavy metals abound such as copper, chromium and lead. Acid wastes from 200 plus tanneries are discharged into the Buriganga River in Bangladesh. These top ten not surprisingly are mostly in third world countries. Environmental laws and controls are essentially non existent and if present unenforced.

Here in North America we have the very same industries. They too initially discharged their toxic wastes into the ground and into nearby rivers. Many of these toxic sites still exist essentially unremediated. The difference is geography and zoning. Fewer people here live in or around these toxic sites. Also here we tend to contain these sites albeit not clean them up properly. The containment may be of the hydraulic containment style that inhibits contaminated groundwater flows or it may be greater insistence on on-site treatment of liquid industrial wastes prior to discharge to surface waters. As recently as the late 90's citizens in Elmira, Ontario were being woken in the middle of the night with sickening air discharges from Chemtura. Those have abated due to the public outcry that improved treatment and practices on Chemtura's site.

It's all about power and politics. Where local people have none, pollution thrives. Where power and wealth are concentrated and democracy merely tokenism, pollution thrives. That is the message I am receiving from this report.

No comments:

Post a Comment