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Report Links Air Pollution, Drinking Water

By Dylan Kristy, The Windsor Star, January 11, 2010

A new report urges the provincial government to look to the sky when assessing pollutants to drinking water.

Essex Region Source Protection Area ranked eighth out of 18 regions throughout the Great Lakes Basin for the release of toxins and contaminants in the air.

The report was released by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defense.

According to the study, more than one million kilograms of toxins a year are released into the atmosphere from the Essex Region Source Protection Area. This figure does not include the pollution swept across from industry in the U.S.

Derek Coronado, co-ordinator for the Citizens Environmental Alliance in Windsor said identifying air pollutants as a source of water contamination is extremely important.

"One of the main recommendations from the report is to consider air pollutants as a threat to drinking water and so far the Ministry of the Environment has not done that," said Coronado.

"I don't think it's too late to include air pollution as a threat to drinking water in these programs, but if they don't do it, then certainly there is a huge gap in source protection areas and for drinking water."

Stan Taylor, project manager for source water protection for the Essex Region Conservation Authority said these studies are crucial for source protection.

"There have been discussions for many years around the potential for air deposition of air-born contaminants to affect waters, whether it be for drinking water, aquatic habitat or for recreational purposes," said Taylor. "I certainly support the need for more studies around the effects so we can get a better understanding."

The toxic chemicals reported to the NPRI include sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, benzene and arsenic.

According to Health Canada, in 1997, 37 per cent and nine per cent of more than 200,000 deaths were related to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases respectively and air pollution causes measurable increases in non-accidental mortality.

The region with the most toxic chemicals being produced is the London region -- including the watersheds of the Thames and Sydenham rivers -- pumping out more than eight million kilograms of toxins each year.

Taylor said the next step is to raise awareness of the affects of the air toxins on water sources. "Now that we have the information we need to advocate to the Ministry of the Environment, that this is something that all source protection areas across the province, particularly the 18 regions focused on within the Great Lakes basin, need to be considering this threat to drinking water as they bring forward their source protection ratification."

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