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Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters: Aging Landfills

Wednesday, September 22nd 2010 11:28:10am

For Immediate Release

Aging Landfills: Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters

Toronto, 22 September 2010 – The Ministry of the Environment has lost track of hundreds of aging landfills that threaten Ontario’s water and air quality, says the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller in his 2009/2010 annual report released today.

“Without proper protective measures and monitoring, aging landfills can pose a serious risk to the environment,” says Miller. “Pollutants can enter ground and surface waters; decomposition produces noxious odours and greenhouse gases.”

While modern landfills are designed to control air emissions and prevent contaminants from reaching water sources, landfills pre-dating the 1998 implementation of stricter regulatory standards are not.  Miller says “the aging landfills are not adequately inventoried or regularly inspected, and their approvals are not being updated by the province.”

• There are 2,449 landfills in Ontario with Certificates of Approval, but only one percent, or 21 landfills, are subject to the more stringent 1998 requirements of the Environmental Protection Act.

• The ministry only inspects 11 percent of landfill sites annually. The low inspection rate increases the likelihood that contaminated water is seeping from older landfills undetected.

• More than 1,000 historic landfills are estimated to have closed before the ministry itself was created. These old dumps therefore are subject to even less scrutiny, if any, by the ministry.

Miller says “the ministry has yet to implement past recommendations to update obsolete approvals issued to landfills and to create a publicly accessible inventory of all Ontario landfills.” The Commissioner finds it perplexing that current ministry databases are less accessible and less comprehensive than the ministry’s 1991 Landfill Inventory, which was a published document that listed information on all provincial landfills.

“Landfills can no longer be the province’s forgotten polluters. The public expects the ministry to keep an updated inventory of provincial landfills; monitor high risk sites; and update approvals when necessary. These are vital in protecting our air and water,” explains Miller.

The Commissioner notes Ontario’s Auditor-General is also evaluating the management of Ontario’s landfills for that office’s upcoming report.

Click here to read the chapter “Aging Landfills: Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters” on the website of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario website.
Click here to download the full report in .pdf.

Click links below to access media releases on other topics mentioned in the Environmental Commissioner’s 2009/2010 Annual Report – Refining Conservation:

Environmental Commissioner Releases 2009/2010 Annual Report

Aging Landfills: Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters
Sewage Treatment – Not Good Enough
Province’s air quality standards are not airtight
Wanted: One billion more trees for southern Ontario
Lack of Mining Oversight Jeopardizes the Far North
Government’s plan will not save caribou
Loophole big enough to truck 160,000 tonnes of sand through
More scrutiny needed for large natural gas plants
Province allows provincially significant wetlands to be drained

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The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the province's independent environmental watchdog, and report publicly on the government's environmental decision-making.  

Aussi disponible en français.

For more information, contact:  
Hayley Easto
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
416-325-3371 / 416-819-1673