Government Struggles with Toxic Site Clean-Up

Last Spring Environmental Commissioner, Scott Vaughn, gave the government high praise for identifying 22,000 contaminated sites and for putting steps in place to clean them up. Although nearly half the sites have been shuttered, Vaughn expects site clean-up for the remaining areas to be a big challenge.

A major contributing factor to this problem is the fact that the program faces a $500 shortfall in funds needed to remediate sites identified for clean-up while most of the money they do have is being concentrated on cleaning four key sites considered to be high risk. It remains unclear how the remaining sites will be handled.

Many of these sites, which were operated before environmental assessment came to Canada, contain pollutants that can endanger human health, such as lead, asbestos, diesel fuel and radioactive waste.

While the government works to streamline its environmental assessment in an attempt to reach its climate change target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to below 17% of what the levels were in 2005 by 2020. Vaughn cautions them to be prudent in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. He said he didn’t believe Canadians could afford it.

He also said since there is no detailed plan outlining how the government will achieve its goal, it is unlikely but not impossible, that they will make it. A more hopeful voice came from Environment Minister, Peter Kent, who said Canada is 25% closer to its goal and promised more efforts are in the works to help assure success.

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