More than three dozen professors at an Ontario university are calling on the federal and provincial governments to act in response to reporting published by Canada’s National Observer.
The open letter from Algoma University faculty, addressed to MP Terry Sheehan and MPP Ross Romano and published on SooToday.com, urges the representatives for Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to regulate emissions of cancer-causing pollution from the Algoma Steel mill. Recent reporting has revealed that those emissions, which well exceed provincial standards, are even higher than previously thought.
Instead of requiring Algoma Steel to take immediate steps to reduce carcinogenic emissions, Ontario has allowed the company to apply for even greater exemptions, so long as some effort is being made to reduce emissions. The plant has been releasing benzo(a)pyrene at 400 times the provincial standard, and is applying for exemptions of 530 times the standard. It’s also been releasing benzene at almost five times the provincial standard, and is now applying for an exemption that’s almost nine times the standard.
The Algoma University professors are most concerned about the inequality of local health-care resources, specifically those for detecting cancer. They point out that the combination of chemicals from the plant exceeding legal limits and a lack of detection equipment at local health-care facilities could be disastrous for residents near the plant.
Algoma Steel Inc. has successfully reduced some emissions, and the mill’s pollution levels will vastly improve when it switches to electric arc steelmaking technology instead of its current coal-based methods, which the company aims to phase out by 2029.
Ontario began enforcing stricter air quality restrictions in 2016, but the Algoma Steel plant has consistently gone above them. The company has been able to do this because of its plans to lower those emissions in the future, including the switch to electric arc technology.
The professors cited the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Clean Water Act to argue that people in Bayview, Ontarians and Canadians across the country have the right to clean air and water, and that their representatives addressed in the letter should uphold that right for their constituents.
— With files from Dax D’Orazio