Canada - US industrial water waste rising - study
MONTREAL - Industrial pollution dumped into U.S. and Canadian lakes, rivers and streams rose 26 percent from 1995 to 1999, overshadowing an almost equal reduction in toxic air emissions, an environmental watchdog agency said yesterday.
In its annual study on pollution in Canada and the United States, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a Montreal-based agency created under the North American Free Trade Agreement, said the total amount of toxic releases and transfers fell only 3 percent during the five-year period.
That modest decline was aided by the manufacturing sector\'s 25-percent reduction in air emissions, the commission said.
But the reduced amount of pollution spewed into the air was offset by a 25-percent jump in on-site releases to land, a 35-percent surge in off-site releases - mainly to landfills - and the 26-percent rise in pollution poured into surface water.
Janine Ferretti, executive director of the commission, said that amounted to an \"out of the air, into the water and land\" trend during the five years.
\"In effect, it is almost as though we are running in place here,\" she told Reuters in an interview.
The report, entitled \"Taking Stock,\" is the sixth straight study by the commission and for the first time provides a five-year snapshot of North American releases and transfers of chemicals. Industries are required to report pollution releases and transfers in Canada and the United States, but that is not yet mandatory in Mexico.
The report examined waste data on 210 chemicals - including those that deplete the protective ozone layer in the Earth\'s atmosphere - from 21,500 facilities in the United States and Canada. In Mexico, 117 facilities voluntarily reported pollution data.
The report notes worrisome trends in the pollution pattern from North American industry. Almost 3.4 million tonnes of toxic chemical waste was produced in 1999, roughly 1 million tonnes of that released on-site into the air. Almost 8 percent of total releases included chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive problems.
Ferretti said she is concerned that the Great Lakes region appears to feature too prominently in producing pollution.
TEXAS, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, ONTARIO TOP POLLUTERS
As in 1998, the top polluting jurisdictions included the American states of Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana, as well as Ontario, Canada\'s most populated province. Ranked by chemical \"loadings,\" the amounts released, transferred for disposal or brought in for that purpose, the biggest polluters were Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ontario.
In 1999, only four industries - primary metals, chemical manufacturing, electrical utilities and hazardous waste management - accounted for almost two-thirds of total releases and transfers.
Almost one-third of total releases were metals such as lead, chromium and nickel and their compounds, largely produced by steel, aluminum and other metals makers.
\"One of the significant sectors that is kind of throwing progress into question is the primary metals sector,\" Ferretti said.
Electrical utilities, which began reporting data for the study only in 1998, were again the biggest polluters, releasing more than 450,000 tonnes of toxic materials in 1999.
Just 15 of the 21,500 industrial facilities reporting, or less than 0.1 percent, accounted for 7 percent of the waste produced. The top 15 included Magnesium Corp. of America in Utah, Grupo Mexico unit Asarco Inc. in Arizona and Montana, AK Steel in Pennsylvania, and the lone Canadian entry, Safety-Kleen Ltd. in Ontario.
The study did not examine greenhouse gas emissions, which are targeted for reduction under the Kyoto climate change protocol. The U.S. government has refused to sign the pact and Canada appears to be wavering, as energy producers and business groups say the measures would damage the economy.
Ferretti said the commission\'s annual study is gathering more detailed information as reporting thresholds for certain chemicals are lowered. Canadian and U.S. releases of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin will be included in the 2000 report.
More detailed data and the expected inclusion of Mexican pollution reporting in the next two to three years will provide a better picture of industrial waste trends, Ferretti said.
\"The real work begins now in terms of having jurisdictions, industry, governments and citizen groups do some analysis of why are we seeing these trends, what is their relevance and what can be done to improve the situation,\" she said.
Story by Robert Melnbardis
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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