Area of Law: Environmental Law
Answer # 371
What if your neighbour is causing pollution?Region: Ontario Answer # 371
If your neighbour is causing pollution and you are suffering from health problems, or you have suffered property damage or you are subjected to things such as bad smells or loud noises, you have four main courses of action to choose from.
One, you can speak with your neighbour and ask them to discontinue the activities that are causing the problem. This is not always a possibility, especially if your neighbour is a business.
In some cases, such as with noise or odours, your municipality may have by-laws to protect you. If so, your second option is to contact the municipality and have them enforce the by-law, which will force your neighbour to stop the nuisance. If the neighbour continues the nuisance, the municipality can prosecute for violation of the by-law.
Your third option is to contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and lodge a complaint. After investigating the situation, the Ministry may issue one of several orders, such as a stop order, or a clean-up order.
Your fourth option is to start a lawsuit. Depending on the situation, it may even be possible to have other neighbours join your lawsuit and help cover the legal costs. This is called a class action and is permissible when the damages claimed by all the participants are caused by the same thing. In your lawsuit you can ask for compensation or an injunction. Compensation is paid to cover the cost of injuries and expenses that were caused by the actions of the polluter. An injunction is a court order that forces the polluter to stop the activities which are causing the problems.
If a neighbour owns or controls a contaminant that adversely affects your property, then they are liable for cleaning up and disposing of the contaminant. However, if the neighbour does not do the clean-up, then you are ultimately responsible. Either you or the Ministry may make arrangements for the clean-up.
Although the cost of the clean-up is legally the responsibility of the neighbour, each property owner must ensure that the clean-up occurs for their property and must pay for it if the neighbour responsible for the contamination does not. However, the property owners do have the legal right to sue the neighbour to recover the cost of clean-up.
If you want the problem to stop immediately, or if it is causing you immediate harm or you think it is do to criminal activity, you can call the police.
How to report pollution to the Ministry
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.
Environmental legal issues are complex and detailed. If you need additional information about environmental law in Ontario, visit the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
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