Posted March 13, 2019 05:21:13The toxic waste crisis in Ontario is sparking questions of what should happen to the province’s most vulnerable people, as the province grapples with its worst-ever leak of toxic waste.
Inspectors with the Ontario Provincial Police and Environment Canada have accused Ontario’s Department of Health of violating the Ontario Environmental Protection Act by ignoring the need to monitor the levels of contaminants in the drinking water.
They allege that, in response to public concerns, Health Canada failed to test all drinking water samples for contaminants and failed to do the work required to keep track of contaminated water sources.
In addition, the province failed to provide information to affected residents and their representatives on what to do if they suspect their water is contaminated.
The government is defending its handling of the leak, saying the province has had to spend millions of dollars on monitoring and cleaning up toxic waste to protect vulnerable communities.
But some environmental justice advocates say the province should be doing more to protect the health of vulnerable communities, such as the elderly, the poor and children.
“This has been a crisis that has been unfolding for a very long time, and this is a crisis with a huge social and economic cost,” said Dan McLean, executive director of the advocacy group Clean Water Action Ontario.
“There’s a lot of things that the province could be doing to protect its vulnerable communities and its people.
The problem is that they’re not.”
Dr. Daniel Bocanegra, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Association of Health Protection Boards, said the province needs to do a better job of monitoring water sources and doing the right thing.
“We have an obligation to provide drinking water to the most vulnerable in our communities.
We have an absolute obligation to do that,” he said.
“And we have an absolutely responsibility to ensure that the people of Ontario are not going to suffer in the absence of that.”
Dr Bocannegra said there are a number of ways to help address the public health crisis.
For example, he said it would be beneficial to provide bottled water for residents and have them pay a fee for the privilege.
“That’s not the only way we can make it more equitable,” he added.
Dr Bohannegra also called for an end to the use of chlorinated tap water.
That is a water source that contains chemicals used in chlorine production and disinfection.
“You can’t have a chlorinated water supply in a community where people are living with elevated risk of developing health problems from drinking water contaminated by these chemicals,” he noted.
In recent months, the Ontario government has come under pressure from health experts to step up efforts to reduce the number of deaths linked to contaminated water.
But health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said the government’s focus is to reduce rates of waterborne illness and deaths.
“I can tell you that our response has been absolutely phenomenal,” he told the Star this week.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career.
I’ve never had a situation like this.
While the government is pushing for an increase in the use or sale of bottled water, Dr. Bocaniegra said that isn’t a solution.””
That’s what I’m trying to do with the government.”
While the government is pushing for an increase in the use or sale of bottled water, Dr. Bocaniegra said that isn’t a solution.
“It’s not going go away.
It’s going to have to be done,” he continued.
“People can’t just take their tap water and drink it in the same way that they can take their toothpaste and use it in a public bathroom.”
But the province said that, despite the public outcry, the water crisis is unlikely to end.
In a news release, the government said the ministry has “significant progress” in reducing deaths linked by the spill, but that it will continue to take a “careful look at all of the steps” to reduce overall health risks.
“The ministry has identified several areas that need to be strengthened and the work continues to be carried out,” the statement read.