Attention News, Environmental and Science Editors:
Eastern Ontario residents charge Ministry of Environment with flip-flop
Government poised to fail first post Walkerton test case
QUEEN'S PARK, Dec. 5 /CNW/ - Lanark County citizens today called on the Ontario Minister of the Environment to uphold the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry Report when he makes his decision on a controversial water-taking appeal involving the Tay River near Perth.
After a two-year struggle, in February 2002 permanent and seasonal residents in the Tay River watershed won an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) decision to restrict the volume of water-taking from the Tay River by OMYA (Canada) Inc. The Swiss multi-national mines calcium carbonate (limestone) locally and mixes it with water to make a slurry product used for papermaking and many other industries.
The Tribunal decision restricted OMYA to taking 1.5 million litres of water per day from the Tay River, one-third of the original volume sought by the company. OMYA appealed this decision to the Minister of the Environment, Chris Stockwell asking him to triple the water-taking to the 4.5 million litres per day it had originally sought. The Tay River and its watershed is a major reservoir for the Rideau Canal and the source of drinking water for 6,000 residents in the Town of Perth
Carol Dillon, one of the original appellants before the ERT, said the Tay River Defence appellants were shocked to learn in late November that the Ministry of Environment which had initially agreed to the Tribunal's decision to restrict the water-taking, had reversed its position and is urging Minister Stockwell to accept the Company's demands.
"The Minister's decision on this appeal will be a test case of the government's commitment to implementing the Walkerton Inquiry recommendations on source water protection," Ms. Dillon said today. "All we are asking is that the Minster uphold the Tribunal's decision."
"Justice O'Connor spelled out an approach to water protection in the Walkerton Report which closely resembles the conclusions of the Tribunal in the Tay River case," Ms. Dillon said. "If the Minister overturns the Environmental Tribunal's decision in the Tay River case, he would be acting in direct contradiction of the government's promises to implement the recommendations from the Walkerton Inquiry."
Ms. Dillon said the Walkerton Report reference is relevant since it called for the use of a precautionary approach when dealing with environmental related water decisions, as well as watershed planning and management. It also recommended that the public participate in decisions about the use and management of Ontario's waters. Each of these principles was incorporated in the Tay River decision rendered by Pauline Browes, Vice Chair of the Environmental Review Tribunal.
If the Minister allows OMYA's appeal it would severely undermine the gains the local citizens made to ensure public accountability and participation in the Ministry's permit process," she said.
Ms. Dillon and Michael Cassidy, another active appellant and former MPP criticized the Ministry for reversing its position on this case.
"The MOE has done a total flip-flop," Ms. Dillon said. "MOE officials were unequivocal at the hearings that there was too little data to permit OMYA to take 4.5 million litres per day from the Tay River. Today, the MOE supports OMYA's demand for increased water-taking and is requesting that their Minister eliminate the Tribunal's conditions which were designed to maintain accountability and public confidence, and to improve public participation in the Tay River water-taking."
For further information: Carol and Mel Dillon, (613) 264-0680; Michael
and Maureen Cassidy, (613) 238-1432; Ramani Nadarajah, counsel, CELA,
(416) 960-2284 ext. 217, "Dawn Kierans" <email@example.com>