Canada's Chemical Valley

by jlomb on November 10, 2017 - 10:22pm

The article presented by Global News, highlights the stressed laid upon the locals of Sarnia from an industrial parkway, known as the Chemical Valley. This collection of news stories displayed the struggles that families face regarding their health and the steps taken toward mitigating this problem. Studies show that Sarnia has one of the highest rates of respiratory cancer cases in all of Canada. The locals blame this outbreak on the 60 oil refining plants that are crammed within 20 square miles. The astronomical mortality rate of cancer in this area have pressed the public to fight for change.  

            In the past, citizens have requested the government to conduct a study on the local atmospheric toxin levels, but they were rejected. They then tried to undertake their own study and asked the government to fund a citizen scientist organization. They got rejected again but did receive an offer from the industries to aid in a study. In the spite of this, the government did set a new emission standard for the chemical valley plants, that turned out to be unsuccessful. This has fueled the locals to lose trust in the states ability to handle serious, life threatening, environmental problems.  Eventually, the government did set new standards to limit the emission of benzene. However, the standard was way to low and all the plants failed to meet this requirement, with no disciplinary measures being given.

            The state has failed to properly conduct the 6 steps in environmental assessment. There is a major problem with the scope of this environmental case. The government considers benzene to the only chemical worth monitoring. Meanwhile, locals have been able to conduct studies themselves to reveal that there are dangerous doses of other chemicals suspended in their air. The state has also failed to consider the geologic scope of the area. The laws that set pollution emission standards for single plants, don’t consider the cumulative effect they have with the surrounding plants. This results in the local atmosphere being heavily concentrated with pollutants.

The state seems to be turning to adaptive management to deal with this problem. They continue to add new policies and modify old policies when a new problem arises. The chemical valley doesn’t seem to get much attention from the government. Environmental lawyers believe this is a case of environmental racism. The area immediately surrounding the industrial parkway is home to the Aamjiwnaang first nation community.  The lawyers believe that if this area was affecting the lives of upper class, white collar citizens, then there would be a greater amount of action taking place. This brings upon its own set of behavioral conflict as the Aamjiwnaang community further grow to distrust and dislike the governing parties.

            The best way to tackle this problem is to finally obtain proper data to eliminate all uncertainty. From there the state can set, and enforce, reasonable policies that help the factories succeed while protecting the workers and the locals. This may be done by providing financial aid to help install more efficient technology or by changing the systems within the plants. They must first determine what level of toxic emissions results in relatively healthy air. Only then can they then go on to conduct ways of achieving the needed air quality standard.