By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians are looking to the Town of Oakville for help in improving the city’s air quality.
Councillors agreed at their Aug. 12 government issues committee meeting to examine the town’s bylaw that enforces how much fine particulate matter is released from construction and industrial sites. It also establishes a fine if the business exceeds the regulations.
Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie, who introduced the motion, said air quality studies conducted within the city from last summer by Environment Hamilton revealed the municipality needs to tighten up its bylaw to curtail such pollution as “drag out.” The term refers to vehicles leaving an industrial or construction site while tracking material onto the street and leaving fine particulate material in the air.
McHattie said he found out about theOakvillebylaw, approved in 2010, last year. Along with Hamilton officials, he met with Oakville representatives to better understand the regulation.
He said Oakville businesses resisted the bylaw, warning city official that if it became law, they would relocate to another municipality. So far, that hasn’t happened, he said.
Environment Hamilton executive director Lynda Lukasik said pollution prevention measures can benefit both the economy and the environment.
She said Hamilton’s bylaws should provide a “clear understanding” to developers, and business owners of what is expected of them to prevent air pollution on their properties.
“There is a basic obligation that we need more from our bylaws,” said Lukasik. “Other jurisdictions have tightened up (their regulations on air quality).”
Other municipalities, she told councillors, have passed stricter pollution laws, especially in the United States.
“I get annoyed with the drag out,” she said. “Why is industry allowed to get away from that? (Focus) the problem at the source. It’s really simple. It’s not complicated.”
Oakville’s bylaw requires an application for approval by a proposed or existing facility with a major health risk involving air pollution be posted for comment for 30 days. The idea is to protect residents of fine particulate material measuring 2.5 microns or less, when it impacts a person’s respiratory system.
The municipality also filed an application to the province under the Environmental Bill of Rights asking the government to institute a new regulation under the Environmental Protect Act to regulate the emissions of airbourne fine particulate material.
Hamilton’s overall air quality has been declining since the 1990s, according to recent studies. There have been high levels of fine particulate material found along area highways, such as the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Red Hill Parkway, and the 403, and there are higher levels of “drag out” pollution at construction sites and industrial locations.
Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla said it was time the province stepped in and established province-wide legislation to protect Ontario’s air shed and environment.
“It’s unconscionable that cities need to take a lead,” he said. “(They are) allowing industries to govern themselves. It’s driven by greed not by public health.”
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark said Hamilton should follow Oakville and file an application to the EBR.
“If more municipalities file, then there will be more of an outcry,” he said.
Clark said just like the pesticide and non-smoking debates, the only way to get the province to enact province-wide regulation is if municipalities force theOntariogovernment to take action.
Politicians are scheduled to vote on the recommendation at their Aug 16 council meeting.