Area of Law: Environmental Law
Answer # 370
Air pollution, water usage & dumping, and waste disposalRegion: Ontario Answer # 370
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks establishes general rules to regulate and restrict emissions into the air, water usage and dumping, and waste disposal. It is illegal to violate these rules. There are also a number of industry specific regulations that establish environmental controls for different substances and activities. In addition to these regulations, Ministry approval is usually needed to dispose of waste, to use large quantities of water, or to release any type of water or waste into a waterway or to release substances into the air. If you fail to obtain approval or comply with the regulations you may be prosecuted.
Unless you are in compliance with the Environmental Protection Act regulations or have acquired an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA), it is illegal to emit contaminants into the air. Contaminants can range from things such as toxic substances to noise and vibrations, resulting from activities or equipment that include, among others, emergency generators, paint booths and storage tanks.
If you want to discharge a contaminant into the environment regularly, you must meet the required air standards, and you may also need to have an Environmental Compliance Approval. The Ministry will regulate the quality and quantity of discharge to ensure that it falls within Ministry guidelines, and to ensure that the overall affect is acceptable for the environment. Facilities that are not able to meet the standards may be able to submit a request for a ‘site-specific standard‘.
View Reg. 419/05 Air Pollution – Local Air Quality of the Environmental Protection Act for more information on the regulations and a complete listing of what is designated as a contaminant and what is exempt.
Releasing water or waste into water
If you plan to release certain types of water or waste into a waterway, you will also need an Environmental Compliance Approval from the Ministry. Water containing contaminants is considered to be wastewater and you will require an Approval to lawfully discharge it into a river, lake or stream. The Ministry has a number of regulations governing specific industrial wastewater releases. For discharges not specified in the regulations, the Ministry will establish limits on the amount and frequency of your discharges in your Approval. These limits are decided on a case by case basis using policies and guidelines established by the Ministry. The Approval will specify the type and amount of waste that you are permitted to release.
View Reg. 347 Waste Management in the Environmental Protection Act for more information on waste disposal regulations and a complete listing of what is designated as waste and what is exempt.
The Permit to Take Water Program ensures that water usage is regulated. A permit is not needed to take water for domestic and general farm purposes, but taking water for irrigation of farm crops, or taking more than 50,000 litres of water per day from any source, including a well, requires a permit.
Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR)
In some cases, businesses conducting certain activities may register with the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR), as opposed to applying for an Environmental Approval. Businesses must meet certain eligibility requirements and regulations set by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Visit Environmental Registration for more information.
To report pollution, noise pollution, and waste dumping, call the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks public pollution reporting hotline, toll-free, 24/7 at 1-866-663-8477, or visit ontario.ca.
In 2011, in amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, Environmental Compliance Approvals replaced Certificates of Approvals. However, existing Certificates of Approval continue to apply.
To apply for more than one approval (air, noise, waste or sewage project), only one Environmental Compliance Approval application is required. The application form and Guide to Applying are available online from the Ministry.
For more information about environmental law and Environmental Approvals, visit the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
For legal advice, contact an environmental law lawyer.
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