Petrochemical plants in Sarnia, Ont., do their best to protect human health, a spokesman says, despite a legal action launched Monday on behalf of two members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

The environmental group Ecojustice is representing Ada Lockridge and Ron Plain, who allege the cumulative effect of pollution in the area known as "Chemical Valley" is threatening their health.


A 2007 photo shows a sign for the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Resource Centre, which is across the road from NOVA Chemicals in Sarnia, Ont. ((Craig Glover/Canadian Press))

The reserve outside Sarnia is near a high concentration of petrochemical plants and other industries.

Dean Edwardson, a spokesman for the Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association, which is funded by industry to measure air and water pollution, said current environmental standards protect human health. And industry does its best to follow regulations, he said.

"We always have concerns of the health impacts on people and we try to operate our facilities in such a way that they're in compliance with the regulations and they have a minimum impact on health and the environment," Edwardson said.

The application for judicial review, filed on behalf of Lockridge and Plain, alleges the provincial Environment Ministry issues permits to industry without considering the cumulative effects, violating the pair's charter rights.

Allegations in the document have not been proven in court.

Grahame Rivers, a spokesman for environment Minister John Wilkinson, said Ontario has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in North America to reduce pollution linked to serious health problems.

"As part of this we have introduced 59 new or updated air standards — and will continue to improve standards," he said in an email to CBC News. "And since February 2010, industrial facilities have to meet new or updated standards for 33 high priority substances."

Rivers said Ontario has seen results in Sarnia, where levels of contaminants have been reduced by 20 per cent since 1990.

Ecojustice, however, says its analysis shows industry in the area releases more dangerous pollutants than any other community in Ontario, and more than the total emissions of Manitoba, New Brunswick or Saskatchewan.