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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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No More Breathing Room: Speak Up or Hold Your Breath

By Karen Buck, Citizens for a Safe Environment

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(At the request of David Windrim, the BTRA Board invited Karen Buck to submit this article for the Spring 2009 Triangle Topics newsletter.)

250 local residents filled the auditorium at the Fire Academy for the presentation of the conclusions of the Biosolids Master Plan. The six community members who had dedicated fourteen years to the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant Environmental Assessment couldn't believe their ears when they heard Lou Di Gironimo, Manager of Toronto Water, conclude that incineration was back on as "contingency disposal when needed". Those years of hard work had just gone "down the drain", so to speak, and the City was now in violation of its own approved Mediation Agreement that had brought a successful conclusion to the Environmental Assessment.

This announcement in 2004 to use the incinerators again, after Toronto Council under the lead of Councillor Bussin had achieved their closure in 2002, was a monumental setback for the biosolids beneficial use program and community air quality.

Of greater concern (in addition to the breaking of Mediation Agreement commitments), Toronto Water reached this conclusion without the completion of a critical study of biosolids use on non-agricultural lands and the completion of the required Health Studies.

In 2005, and in fulfillment of the City's commitments arising from the EA Mediation process, Toronto Public Health presented the conclusions of the Health Studies to 150 residents seated in the same Fire Academy auditorium. The results of the Emissions Study1 concluded that:

The results of the Health Study2 concluded that:

In response to the release of the above two studies, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, issued a report to the Toronto Board of Health with the recommendation to:

"request the Ontario Minister of the Environment and the City of Toronto to consider the cumulative impact of emissions from any new or modified industrial facility on adjacent residential areas with elevated burden of illness/mortality, or that have a disproportionate share of pollution point sources, such as in South Riverdale, prior to issuing a Certificate of Approval."3

In spite of the above recommendation the Portlands Energy Centre (a new Ontario-owned gas-fired power generation plant) was located in the Portlands and this year, at a locally held Open House, Toronto Water proposed incineration as a viable disposal option to finalize the draft Biosolids Master Plan.

With fewer than 20 residents in attendance at the Open House it could be construed that East End Toronto is no longer opposed to an incineration option at Ashbridges Bay treatment Plant that will have a significant impact on the health of the communities within its airshed and, particularly, those in close proximity to both plants where air quality is already poor, health has been compromised and residents are vulnerable, as documented in the Health Study.

E-mail sbussin@toronto.ca now to voice your opposition to incineration at the plant.

Note 1: The six community members who participated in the ABTP Environmental Assessment (EA) and are signatories to the Mediation Agreement are Karen Buck (CSE), Dr. Stephen Connell, David Done (SSC), Jim Neff (CSE), Karey Shinn (SSC) and Stephen Whyte. The two community organizations represented by the above individuals are Citizens for a Safe Environment (CSE) and the Safe Sewage Committee (SSC).

Note 2: Profile of Karen Buck: President, Citizens for a Safe Environment (CSE), a non-profit incorporated community group that began in 1983, and is concerned with issues around local environmental and health protection. CSE advocates for government and individual actions and policies that support healthy communities with regard to good air quality, water quality and continuously improved wastewater treatment. Karen is also Co-Chair of the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant (ABTP) Neighbourhood Liaison Committee and Member on the City's Implementation and Compliance Monitoring Committee (ICMC), which monitors the City's compliance with the commitments in its Mediation Agreement.


1 Air Emissions from the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant, 2005; prepared by Earth Tech Canada Inc., and Golder Associates Ltd. for Toronto Public Health.

2 Mortality, Cancer Incidence and Hospitalization Among the Residents of the Neighbourhoods of South Riverdale, the Beaches and Comparison Communities, 2005; conducted by Murray M. Finkelstein for Toronto Public Health. Found at http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/abtp_health.pdf

3 Dr. McKeown's report is found at http://Toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/abtp_board_of_health.pdf

Referenced reports:
Referenced reports:
Profile for Karen Buck
  1. President, Citizens for a Safe Environment.

    Citizens for a Safe Environment (CSE) is a non-profit incorporated community group that began in 1983 in South Riverdale to oppose two newly proposed Waste-to Energy Facilities for the management of Toronto's municipal waste. The Plants would be located in the industrial Port Lands.

    With strong community and local political opposition the two proposals were defeated and followed by the closure of the Commissioners Street Garbage Incinerator in 1988, the introduction of the Blue Box Recycling Program (as a result of a feasibility study funded by CSE) and the closure of the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant Incinerators in 2002.

    Citizens for a Safe Environment is a community advocacy group concerned with issues around local environmental and health protection. CSE advocates for government and individual actions and policies that support healthy communities with regard to good air quality, water quality and continuously improved wastewater treatment.

  2. Co-Chair of the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant (ABTP) Neighbourhood Liaison Committee (NLC) which is a requirement of the commitments made by the City in the Mediation Agreement.
  3. Signatory, on behalf of Citizens for a Safe Environment, to the City's Mediation Agreement (1999) that successfully concluded the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant Environmental Assessment begun in 1989.
  4. Member on the City's Implementation and Compliance Monitoring Committee (ICMC) which is a requirement of the commitments made by the City in the Mediation Agreement. The ICMC monitors the City's compliance to the commitments in its Mediation Agreement.

Members from the public are welcomed and encouraged to belong to Citizens for a Safe Environment ($2.00 family membership fee).

Contact: Karen Buck at (416) 690-7593 or karenbuck@rogers.com

Members are welcomed and invited to become members of both City Committees - the ABTP and the ICMC.

City Contact: Mike Logan, Public Consultation Coordinator, City of Toronto. (416) 392-2962 or mlogan@toronto.ca

Contact ABTP NLC Community Co-Chairs:

Karen Buck at (416) 690-7593 or karenbuck@rogers.com

Karey Shinn at (416) 760-1078 or karey@shinntype.com