1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
SATURDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 25
QUESTIONS AND DISCUSSION
Linda Lucasik, Past President, Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, Ontario; Vice President, Great Lakes United
I just wanted to make a few comments based on my own experiences. I want to talk about a positive past and an uncertain future. I think that is what we are experiencing in the Hamilton Harbour watershed. You all saw on the slide today all the wonderful progress that's been made in the Hamilton Harbour watershed with habitat restoration, but a status report for our RAP that was released in September of 1998 made it clear that we couldn't even evaluate where we are with toxics, because we don't have enough information. Our progress in sediment remediation needs improvement. We haven't completed any of our sediment remediation projects yet. This concerns me greatly because I think I see, I know I see, a changing culture in the way government is approaching dealing with the regulation of toxics. The Dofasco environmental management agreement is one example of this. It was presented today as a very positive initiative and I agree it is and that Dofasco tends to be a good corporate environmental actor, but I do want to point out that that agreement has no room for community accountability as far as I am concerned. There are no guarantees to community that that agreement will be followed through on, and really I am not convinced there are any fallback mechanisms there. That's one concern amongst a lot of others that I have about where we are headed in the future.
Hamilton Harbour and, I think, a lot of other Areas of Concern are still struggling with the toxics issues and the contaminated sediments issues. They are big issues and I think they are the biggest challenge that RAPs have still to face. What I'm looking for is reassurance that governments are going to be there in a financial sense, because I think that's absolutely critical but, also in a leadership sense. I want to be reassured that you're going to be there taking the lead to ensure that we continue to make the kind of progress in Hamilton Harbour and other Areas of Concern that's reflective of the sort of progress that we've made already. I am curious to hear any comments on commitment.
Thank you, Linda. Let me reiterate, in terms of the leadership side of things, let me reiterate the comment that Paddi Torsney made last night on behalf of the Minister of the Environment from the federal level, that was a commitment, a very strong commitment, to continue to be an active player and a leadership role player in the work of the Great Lakes, including the Hamilton Harbour actions. You have that commitment, absolutely.
The issue of how we are addressing it. Hamilton Harbour is a significant problem area. It is a significant problem as an Area of Concern. If we look at, across the basin and certainly on the Canadian side, the magnitude of those Areas of Concern change from one area to the other. Hamilton tends to be on that far right side which is one of the most difficult Areas of Concern to address. It will take us some time to do it. I think I'd just like to make just one other comment, I'm going to ask Vic Shantora to talk about toxics and sediment in a minute, but one other point I would make, and that is on the issue of the environmental agreement and the approach of governments. Absolutely, there is a change and the change is from a command-and-control regulatory approach to one that says we need to have a mixed tool kit to deal with it, not simply command and control, but that has to be there, that's part of it, the regulatory framework has to be there and that has to be an absolute baseline for health and safety, but we want to do more than that. We want to go beyond that and to do that things like the environmental management agreement we have at Dofasco is an example of those going beyond that simple regulatory floor.
Just quickly, I think my concern with the agreement, I see the potential for success with implementation, but my concern is that there were calls from the community level for some sort of community representation within that process, and that didn't happen. That certainly concerns me in terms of the direction that you are going with these agreements.
What we did, in the process of developing the agreement, you are right, it wasn't sufficient. I would agree with you wholeheartedly that the level of community engagement, we can never be enough. What we had is an example of a step forward on this, and I think it is. One of the things I mentioned in my talk, one of the key things that were along that agreement is there is a public accountability. There is a commitment by Dofasco for public reporting and both governments are going to hold Dofasco to that public reporting.
Actually John, I wanted to just amplify your comments on the Dofasco agreement. We are currently in the process of re-looking at how we are going to advance the cause of voluntary initiatives and one of the main issues, a number of issues, verifiability, accountability, transparency, all of those will be parameters in a new policy approach. Actually the gentleman standing behind you in line is has personal experience with something we are doing with Canadian Chemical Producers Association exactly on that point. We are definitely re-thinking and sort of upping the bar in terms of how we intend to use voluntary initiatives as part of the overall tool box, as John said. That having been said, I would just like to reassure you that as we go forward with that new policy development, that we'll be looking to youself and other people to be part of that process and make sure that we've got a good policy construct. Final point is that volunteerism is not going to supersede regulatory requirements. We will always have a regulatory backstop.
Just, speaking for the U.S. side, I would echo those comments. Clearly, we have to think of creative ways where we can, in terms of sediment remediation for example, think of a way where we can get to the point where we start moving more mud faster and sometimes that is through voluntary creative partnerships. I would also echo the sentiment that there will always be the strong regulatory backdrop, that is the backbone of all our environmental programs. That is a commitment that certainly has been there and will remain there.