Ontario enviro watchdog, First Nation demand health study after 'Chemical Valley' investigation

Ontario enviro watchdog, First Nation demand health study after 'Chemical Valley' investigation
From Global News - October 15, 2017

There are growing calls for a community health study in Sarnia, Ont., and Aamjiwnaang First Nation following an investigation that revealed major concerns about government oversight and health risks for residents living near one of Canadas largest complexes of oil refineries and petro-chemical plants.

Ontarios Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe said its truly shameful what is happening to residents living near whats known as Sarnias Chemical Valley.

Its clear to me that this situation is outrageous and it needs immediate attention, Saxe said. First Nations communities disproportionately bear the burden of pollution across Ontario and that needs to change.

WATCH:A Global News investigation into a troubling trend of leaks and spills in Sarnias Chemical Valley

A joint investigation by Global News, the Toronto Star, the National Observer, Michener Awards Foundation and journalism schools at Ryerson and Concordia analyzed more than 500 government reports, obtained through Access to Information requests. They document a troubling frequency of industrial spills and leaks in the Sarnia region over a two-year period which raises serious concerns about government oversight of industry and how the citys alert system has been used just once to notify residents about spills since 2014.

The number one issue is the large number of industry living in close proximity to homes. That is the result of historic zoning decisions, Saxe said, adding there needs to better monitoring and reporting of pollution by industry in the province.

Chief Joanne Rogers, of Aamjiwnaang First Nation which is surrounded on three sides by Chemical Valley, said it was a sad and emotional experience watching the Global News documentary.

WATCH:Aamjiwnaang chief wants community concerns heard over industrial spills following Global News investigation

What really is concerning to me is the number of our community members who we have lost because of cancer and respiratory illnesses, Rogers said, adding it was crucial the province funds a health study. That is concerning, and we still have community members that are dealing with cancer every day.

READ MORE:Are industrial spills in Canadas Chemical Valley making people sick?

Chemical Valley is home to a total of 57 polluters registered with the Canadian and U.S. governments within a 25 kilometre area of Sarnia, including major producers like Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Suncor Energy and Plains Midstream Canada.

Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown slammed the Liberal government for failing to fund a health impact study for more than a decade.

The fact that weve had the government dancing from the need to have this study. Its a real disappointment, a real dereliction of duty, Brown said. Looking into it is not going to cut it anymore.

WATCH: Patrick Brown pushes for health study following industrial spills investigation

The investigation also found that a 10-year effort to get a local health study to examine the impacts of the petrochemical industry on Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang was scuttled, despite concerning research and statements from local residents who feared for their health.

Whenever we lose a member, they have suffered from some form of cancer, Rogers said. I really believe its the area in which we live. This is our home. We have roots here. This has been our home since time immemorial.


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