This Map is built out of Industry provided notifications about pollution incidents in Chemical Valley that were collected by Aamjiwnaang community members from 2013-2023. The Map is connected to Data Colonialism in Canada’s Chemical Valley: Aamjiwnaang First Nation and the Failure of the Pollution Notification System, a report co-created between the Yellowhead Institute and the Technoscience Research Unit, with the leadership of Vanessa and Beze Gray from Aamjiwnaang First Nation. To learn more about the notifications, the facilities reporting the most incidents, and their timing, you can read the full report here.
Filters: The map’s default is to show all the notifications. Filters can be used to display the notifications of particular companies, or to see notifications about a particular category of pollution, or even to see what notifications appear in a particular season.
Timeline: The map’s default is to show notifications since 2013. Use the slider at the bottom of the map to view the notifications in particular years.
Season: Filter by season is relevant because facilities can change their activities during the seasons, with spring being a particular time of cleaning and restarting after the winter.
Notifications are messages sent by industries to the public reporting pollution, disruptive, or emergency activities (spills, releases, accidents, and flares). They are typically sent by industries through an industry association communication system. These “notifications” typically have little information and are in formats that are hard to find and rarely preserved. They are typically the size of a sentence, and give little precise information about what is happening.
While Section 201 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 and Ontario Regulation 675/98 of the Ontario Protection Act both require companies to report spills and releases to the public, how this is to be done is not specified. This leaves legal loopholes for companies to purposefully provide incomplete, delayed, and cursory information about events.
Notifications are only informational. Depending on the event, industries may have other obligations to report activities to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
Incidences come in many forms, including noise pollution, releases to air and water, or disruptive activities. There is little information in a notification about the amount of chemical involved in an incident so it is not possible to know their severity based on the notification. The accumulation of many incidents over many years is a testament to the cumulative harms in Chemical Valley. The notifications are also inadequate in terms of the limited information they provide. Clear, informative, timely notifications are desired and “good,” but better still would be less pollution events to report.
The data is collected by intergenerational work of community members and land defenders from Aamjiwnaang First Nation who have been documenting the pollution events using different notifications channels and their own experience. The map represents notifications, not all pollution incidents. It is important to remember that not all incidents are reported through the notification system.
The data in the map has some limitations. It is based on notifications collected by community members, between 2013 to 2023. Some notifications could have been missed. We requested that BASES send us their dataset of notifications but did not receive a response. The notifications themselves also have limited information, and so there is a built-in lack of precision in the notifications themselves.
The data in the map has limits that are built into the notifications themselves. The notifications rarely share information about the particular chemical or pollutant released, nor the specific reason for the release. There are also limits in terms of giving the specific timing of incidents. Notifications do not necessarily come at the precise moment of an incident nor do they specify at what time an event occurred. A notification might come hours or a day later, or even before, in the case of a planned start up.
The data behind the map is collected by community researchers, and is not directly provided by BASES. The updating of the map therefore reflects this labor and is not automatic.
Currently there is no way to add notifications to this map. However, users are encouraged to use the Pollution Reporter app to submit complaints, which in turn, creates a report and provides meaningful data to hold industry responsible.
The most common type of pollution event reported by notifications is an airborne event.
The effects are wide ranging. Air pollution can cause acute effects at the time of an incident and chronic effects related to continuous and cumulative exposures. Without accurate information about the chemicals released, it is difficult to connect notifications to health and land effects. For information on the effects of chemicals released in Chemical Valley, the Pollution Reporter App can be consulted.
A gas flare is a combustion device used in petrochemical refineries, chemical manufacture and other facilities to burn off flammable gas. Flares often happen during start up and shut down of processes, or are “safety” releases from unexpected over-pressuring during processes. As part of the safety infrastructure of a facility, flares keep the facility “safe” by emitting pollution into the air during the burning of flammable gas.
Many chemical pollutants are odourless. If you smell something strange, the Pollution Reporter App can be searched by smell (e.g. burnt, oranges, eggs, sweet, etc.) to see if it might match a common chemical pollutant.
The top three companies with the highest notification rates (2013-2023) are Shell (120 notifications), Imperial Oil (101 notifications), and Nova Chemicals and Suncor (90 notifications each).