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Canada Whistleblower on Sarnia-area refineries’ pollutants settles grievance

07:25  11 october  2019
07:25  11 october  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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The government whistleblower who claimed the environment ministry for years failed to properly protect the Aamjiwnaang First Nation from “dangerous” air pollutants from Sarnia - area refineries due to “systemic discrimination,” settled his grievance against the ministry Thursday.

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a man sitting in front of a brick wall: Scott Grant, a senior air pollution specialist at Ministry of the Environment, brought attention to allegedly dangerous air contaminants in the Sarnia chemical valley. © Rick Madonik Scott Grant, a senior air pollution specialist at Ministry of the Environment, brought attention to allegedly dangerous air contaminants in the Sarnia chemical valley.

The government whistleblower who claimed the environment ministry for years failed to properly protect the Aamjiwnaang First Nation from “dangerous” air pollutants from Sarnia-area refineries due to “systemic discrimination,” settled his grievance against the ministry Thursday.

Settlement terms were not disclosed.

Scott Grant, 56, and his wife Cathy, 55, have retired from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks where they both worked as senior air pollution engineers. Scott Grant had also claimed he’d experienced work-place reprisals after reporting his discrimination concerns to deputy minister Serge Imbrogno.

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Oil refineries and other facilities are required to file emissions reports estimating the amount of contaminants released into the air as soon as an event occurs. The estimates are later updated to a final number no more than two weeks after an event.

Ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler confirmed in an email to the Star that the matter was closed.

“The ministry continues to stand by its position that no reprisal ever occurred,” Wheeler said.

“The ministry has and continues to take positive action to address air quality in Sarnia.”

Grant declined an interview through his lawyer David Donnelly.

In an emailed statement to the Star, Donnelly called Thursday “an important day” in the Grants’ lives “as they say good-bye to the Ontario civil service they have served faithfully for over 60 years collectively.”

“Cathy and Scott were leaders in the development of local air quality rules and standards in Ontario for decades,” said Donnelly, who represented Grant in the arbitration hearing.

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The pollutants include volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and carcinogens like benzene. At least 10 large petroleum refineries — first around Corpus Christi and then in the Houston area — suspended operations as a precautionary measure ahead of the hurricane's landfall.

Sarnia ’s Chemical Valley is home to sixty-two chemical plants accounting for nearly 40 percent of Canada's chemical industry. These industrial complexes are the heart of Sarnia 's infrastructure and economy, creating —directly and indirectly— more than fifty thousand jobs in the area .

Donnelly said the couple look forward “to the next chapter in their careers, advising on the important issue of air quality in Ontario” and want to see Canada “engage in meaningful nation-to-nation discussions concerning air quality.”

In August, Grant filed an Ontario Labour Relations Board grievance application against Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ deputy minister Serge Imbrogno. In the grievance, Grant alleged he experienced work-place reprisals after he confidentially reported his discrimination concerns to Imbrogno in January.

The ministry rejected Grant’s allegations of systemic discrimination and his claims of reprisals in its response to the labour board.

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca

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