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Chemical Valley – Sarnia

October 10, 2019

Indigenous Group: Aamjiwnaang First Nation

Business: Multiple Petrochemical plants (57 polluters)
Issue: Chemical releases from area industries and the province’s lack of enforcement of its own environmental laws.

Comment: Experts and documents cast doubts on whether industry and Ontario government are revealing levels of pollutants in areas where residents live near oil and gas facilities.

The government has never done a baseline study to see how residents are affected. According to a joint study conducted by the Star, Global News and journalism schools at Ryerson and Concordia universities, only one public warning has been issued for an industrial incident and the Environment Ministry has laid charges in only four cases since 2013. That record makes it sound as if the area is safe for residents. But more than 500 incident reports over those years suggest just the opposite. These have included an industrial leak of toxic benzene estimated at 22 times the provincial air quality standard in place today, hydrocarbon emissions from a valve left open for three months, and a two-hour leak of hydrogen sulphide from tanks.

“Having a First Nation community next to gas, oil and chemical plants amounts to “environmental racism,” he says. “There’s no way that a white community would be up against the fence line with one of the largest industrial concentrations in the country. Anybody who is informed on this issue knows how dangerous this really is.” Jim Brophy, former executive director of Sarnia’s Occupational Health Clinic

Last Updates: Oct. 10, 2019 – A government whistleblower claims the provinces’ environment ministry has for years failed to protect the Aamjiwaang First Nation, whose ancestral land near Sarnia is surrounded by petroleum refineries and chemical plants from potentially dangerous levels of sulphur dioxide emissions due to “systemic discrimination” that includes yielding to “secretive” industry lobbying to relax compliance standards.