FoI in Canada: Problems tracking hazardous waste

The Ontario Environment Ministry's system for tracking hazardous waste is so deficient the government often doesn't have accurate figures for how much dangerous material is moving around the province.

The lapses were highlighted in December, when the provincial Auditor-General determined that, in 2005, some of the material in 26,000 shipments seemed to have gone missing while in transit between companies that generated it and those receiving it for disposal or processing.

Although the auditor chastised the ministry for the oversight lapse, the province has been sitting on a stinging internal report that concluded more than two years ago that Ontario's system of overseeing hazardous-waste movements is so antiquated it needs to be replaced.

A copy of the report, obtained by The Globe and Mail through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicates senior ministry staff have known since at least November, 2005, that the government's system wasn't working well.

The report, commissioned by the Environment Ministry and written by Deloitte & Touche LLP, said the province needed to spend about $100-million over a 10-year period on a new system that would allow its enforcement officials to better monitor waste movements. Although this would be a large expenditure, it would save the government about $15-million, compared with the costs of operating the current system, according to the report, which was labelled "confidential - not for distribution."

New hazardous waste plan recommended for Ontario (The Globe and Mail, 25 March 2008)