The Toronto Star
Jan. 17, 2004

Province cancels water-taking permits


The Ontario environment ministry has cancelled permits that allowed increases in the amount of water a dozen Ontario companies were expecting to take.

Chief among them is a Swiss multinational that this year would have been allowed to increase its water-taking from the Tay River, near Ottawa, to 4,500 cubic metres a day from 1,483 cubic metres.

Yesterday, environmentalists applauded Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky for revoking the controversial two-phase permit issued to OMYA (Canada) Inc. last February by then-minister Chris Stockwell.

"We're very pleased with the steps she's taken so far," said lawyer Ramani Nadarajah of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, adding that Dombrowsky's actions represent a fundamental shift in the province's approach to water use and conservation.

Last month, the ministry imposed a year-long moratorium on new water-taking permits. Dombrowsky said the moratorium, prohibiting new permits or increases to existing permits, will allow the province to get a handle on changes needed to properly manage the resource.

In the Credit Valley water basin, for example, the number of permits "actually exceed the capacity in the water shed," she said. "That's the kind of scenarios that we want to avoid."

Dombrowsky said some 12 companies were either contemplating permits to take water or had initiated the process.

She said that OMYA was to have been given "a bump-up and the bump-up did not happen," noting the companies and individuals routinely ask for more water than they need.

OMYA officials did not return phone calls yesterday. The company can appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Headquartered in Offringen, Switzerland, OMYA mines calcium carbonate from a quarry in the Lanark Highlands and trucks the rock to a plant near Perth where it is mixed with river water to make a slurry for paper and paint.