Ontario sets out new penalties for landfill polluters

The Ontario government is strengthening regulations to clamp down on landfill site owners who contravene environmental laws.

The changes will allow the province to take stronger action against illegal activity by giving enforcement officials the ability to issue monetary penalties to open and closed landfilling sites with an approved capacity of 40,000 cubic metres or more.

Without monetary penalties, the ministry must take violators to court – a lengthy and costly process that can often take years to get results.

“Our government takes environmental violations very seriously, and we are committed to holding polluters accountable,” said Andrea Khanjin, minister of the environment, conservation and parks.

“By expanding environmental penalties to landfill facilities, this regulation gives us the ability to take stronger actions to protect Ontarians through swift financial consequences for breaking the law.”

The overall framework for environmental penalties (EPs) remains unchanged. The amendments will maintain the existing process for issuing penalties (e.g., giving a notice of intention, the ability to request a review of the notice and seek reductions), the calculation of penalty amounts, and the rules governing reductions of penalties.

The ministry already uses EPs to support compliance and enforcement efforts at facilities that emit pollution or discharge effluent directly to land and surface waters, and petroleum facilities that discharge sulphur dioxide to the air. Over the past three years, more than 95% of facilities issued penalties were able to demonstrate actions to prevent or mitigate the violation and/or for having an environmental management system in place.

The environmental penalties will range from $1,000 per day for less serious violations to $100,000 per day for the most serious violations. The funds collected from these penalties will be reinvested in impacted communities through the Ontario Community Environment Fund to support activities such as shoreline cleanups or tree planting.

“This is welcome news for people in my community who have had to endure an intolerable odour from a nearby landfill,” said Donna Skelly, MPP for Flamborough-Glanbrook. “This move will help ensure all landfills are in compliance with laws that help protect and preserve our air, land and water.”

The change came about after consultations with the public, industry associations, the agricultural sector, environmental non-governmental organizations, the municipal sector, and First Nations.

Stakeholders supported stronger measures to protect communities and the environment but had mixed support for the concept of expanding administrative monetary penalties (AMPs). However, as a result of compliance concerns arising in the landfill sector, the ministry decided to proceed with limited expansion of the application of environmental penalties to landfilling sites.