Cleaner air promised as province approves air standards for steel mills

New site specific air quality standards for steel mills in Hamilton and across Ontario were approved by the province Friday, covering the next five years of operations.

New standards include more public reporting of emissions results

Ontario's Ministry of Environment approved new site specific air standards for the province's steel mills on Friday. (John Rieti/CBC)

New site-specific air quality standards for steel mills in Ontario were approved Friday. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change announced the changes, saying they will mean cleaner air for Hamilton and other communities affected.

The Ministry says those approvals will ensure ArcelorMittal Dofasco and U.S. Steel's facilities will improve their environmental performance by "implementing best available control methods." That performance has been called in to question by local environmentalists, who say Ontario's air pollution regulation and enforcement lags well behind those in the U.S.

"Based on our careful review and comments from the public, the ministry has placed further conditions on the facilities to improve public transparency and reporting," The Ministry said in a statement.

"The facilities will be required to keep community liaison committees updated and informed and to share information on their emissions publicly on websites."

"This site specific approval will mean improved air quality and reduced pollution within these communities that host iron and steel facilities."

The companies now have site specific approvals in place until 2020.

According to the ministry, these new operating practices will reduce emissions of known carcinogens benzene and benzo(a)pyrene. The ministry estimates up to a 30 per cent reduction in suspended particulate matter, benzene and benzo(a)pyrene air emissions from these facilities within the first couple of years and up to a 40 per cent reduction by 2020.

Lynda Lukasik, the executive director of Environment Hamilton, says that under the steel industry's last site-specific air standards, it was always difficult to know if progress was being made on emissions levels because there wasn't much monitoring.

These site specific standards, she says, require more monitoring from the industry.

"And that's good — but they've still left some key pieces out," she said. Chief among them, she says, is sharing results on emissions testing that will be provided to the ministry with the rest of the general public. "If you're going to make them monitor, why not share those results?" she said.

"I'm pleased that there are some additional requirements here," she said. "But there's a good argument that the public has a right to as much information as possible."


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