The key waste management regulation in Ontario, Regulation 347 of the Environmental Protection Act, has been amended to strengthen hazardous waste management rules.
It’s interesting to note that more than a year ago the ministry had considered amending Regulation 347 to modernize the then fourteen-year-old definitions and standards. At the time, the Canadian Institute of Environmental Law and Policy requested, through the Environmental Bill of Rights process, that the ministry review the laws and regulations applicable to the management of hazardous wastes. The ministry turned down the request.
The recent decision to amend Regulation 347 came after an Ontario environment ministry investigation into the shipment of wastes into the province from Michigan-based CyanoKEM by Hamilton, Ontario-based Philip Enterprises Inc. (and a subsequent audit of Philip’s waste processing facilities and Taro East landfill in Hamilton).
The investigation exonerated Philip of any wrongdoing but the audit raised a number of concerns with the existing waste regulation and approval requirements for waste facilities. This led to the development of a six-point action plan. Some of the items on the action plan — including an order to increase restrictions on waste stabilization and disposal — resulted in an amendment to Philip’s Certificate of Approval (C of A). The ministry also determined that it would establish an independent expert panel to examine the potential for any long-term effects as a result of waste deposited at the landfill.
The current definition of “hazardous waste” in Regulation 347 includes a mixture of acute hazardous waste, hazardous industrial waste, pathological waste and radioactive waste or severely toxic waste. The new language provides that a listed hazardous waste mixture remains a “hazardous waste” but does not explicitly state that a mixture of a listed hazardous industrial waste and any other waste or material remains a “listed hazardous industrial waste.”
The concern was that if a listed hazardous waste mixture only remains a hazardous waste it can be argued that the mixture can be rendered non-hazardous without going through a formal de-listing process.
For the past 14 years the ministry has required formal de-listing but the amendments will ensure that the mixture rule is followed. As such, Ontario’s mixture rule will be equivalent to that found in the federal hazardous waste regulations in the United States. Formal de-listing will be required in order to render waste non-hazardous.
Another major change to Regulation 347 involves the incorporation of provisions of the Registration Guidance Manual for Generators of Liquid Industrial and Hazardous Waste, 1995 into Regulation 347. The regulation has always required that liquid industrial and hazardous wastes be characterized and registered with the ministry, but the specific details and method of characterization and classification were only identified within the Registration Guidance Manual. In order to link the legislation and the manual, legal effect has been given to the provisions of the manual.
The ministry has stated that the above amendments have made Regulation 347 the “toughest in Ontario history.” In addition, Minister of Environment Tony Clement has directed a thorough review of Ontario’s waste regulations, taking into account all policies and recommendations designed to improve environmental protection, including those being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.