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Beach Triangle Residents Association

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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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Right to Know By-Law

By David Windrim

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In the Fall, 2009 issue of the BTRA News I reported that City Council had adopted an Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Program.

The program includes a new bylaw, which will require businesses and City operations to publicly report their use and release of 25 hazardous chemicals that are in Toronto's environment at levels of health concern. The reporting bylaw came into effect on January 1, 2010. Reporting will be phased in over four years and will provide new supports for businesses to track and report chemicals and to adopt measures to prevent pollution and reduce chemicals. Reporting will be phased in over four years, with the facilities in the first phase required to report 2010 data by June 30, 2011.

Under the new bylaw, will the public be able to access the information that facilities report?

With the exception of some information protected under privacy laws, the public will be able to access the data collected through a searchable website. This is currently done with programs like the National Pollutant Release Inventory. The public will be able to search by facility, chemical or neighbourhood, and see the information in maps and tables. They could also see health and environmental information about the substances, and view statements from facilities about environmental programs. This database will be available to the public by January 2012.

How will the public benefit from access to this information?

Providing transparent, easy-to-understand information will increase residents' knowledge and awareness of their local environment and the businesses in their neighbourhoods. Access to this data could also help build support for environmental improvements. Residents will be able to have the information they need to participate in discussions with facilities about why chemicals are used, and encourage the facility to adopt pollution prevention measures and support local facilities that are making environmental improvements.

Additional information on this subject is available at the City of Toronto Website at Health in the A to Z index, click on Right-to-Know (access to Environmental Information).

I will update this article in our Fall Newsletter which is scheduled for delivery to your door next November, 2010.