Liberal ‘1970s era’ sulphur dioxide standards put Sarnia children, First Nations at risk: NDP

QUEEN’S PARK—During question period Tuesday, NDP Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic Michael Mantha revealed that the Wynne government continues to adhere to 1970s era sulphur dioxide standards despite promising to update these standards last year. The lax standards allow higher levels of harmful pollutants into the air, threatening the heath of Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang First Nation families.

“The government promised to update its sulphur dioxide standard by the end of 2016,” said Mantha. “The current standard dates back to the 1970s, and is nearly four times higher than the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard. Sulphur dioxide has been blamed for increased rates of asthma and other health problems in South Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang First Nation.”

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change acknowledges that exposure to high levels of sulphur dioxide can result in breathing problems and worsening respiratory and cardiovascular disease—people with asthma are among the most sensitive. Ontario’s current one-hour sulpher dioxide standard is 260 parts per billion (ppb) and dates back to the 1970s. This is nearly four times higher than the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard of 70 ppb, announced in 2016.

New Democrats are also concerned that the flaring of sour gas goes unregulated in the Sarnia area—this process results in the release of Sulphur dioxide.

“Flaring is a relatively common occurrence in Chemical Valley,” said Mantha. “Unregulated flaring, along with the weak sulphur dioxide standard, is putting the health of Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang families at risk. The Aamjiwnaang First Nation, the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council, and the Assembly of First Nations have all called on the Minister to update the sulphur dioxide standard.

The government broke its promise.”

“When will the Minister stop breaking this promise, and finally update the sulphur dioxide standard?” asked Mantha.