Can high profit flow with safe water?

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Mike Price is happy to take on all comers if the province opens the door to privatization of Toronto’s water and sewer service.

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Straight Flush

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"What farmers facing environmental restrictions have suspected about provincial urban sewages systems is true: they are massive environmental polluters of sewage and other compounds. Because it would cost so much to upgrade facilities in cities and towns, the situation often gets a blind eye."

It took just a few minutes. A manure irrigation gun, left unattended, pumping at full throttle. A faulty connection. Before anyone knew what had happened, several thousand litres of liquid hog manure were flowing down the slope towards the small trout creek.

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Bring back our beaches

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The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth. That’s the title of a new book that describes the western world’s love affair with beaches. For over a century, we have flocked to sandy shores to escape summer’s heat, to seek spiritual and artistic inspiration, and above all, to have fun. Sadly, many of our beaches are anything but paradises these days. Contaminated by human sewage, they have become sources of sickness rather than delight.

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Privatizing Water Supply and Sewage Treatment: How Far Should We Go?

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This paper, published in Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, was prepared for Property Rights, Economics & Environment: Water Resources, an international conference organised by the Centre d’Analyse Economique and the International Center for Research on Environmental Issues in 1998. In the paper, Elizabeth Brubaker compares four approaches to the privatization and regulation of water and sewage utilities and explores the environmental implications of each approach.

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What do you think of the state of Canada’s beaches?

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Public health authorities routinely close, or "post," beaches when high levels of bacteria contaminate bordering waters, scaring off would-be swimmers with signs typically reading: "Warning. Polluted waters. Swim at your own risk." During the summer of 1996, Toronto Public Health Services posted beaches on the city’s west side three quarters of the time. Some years the department has warned swimmers away for virtually the entire summer. Recent years have also seen closings elsewhere along the Great Lakes shoreline, from Thunder Bay to the St. Lawrence River. In the nation’s capital, The Ottawa Citizen has described BritanniaBeach on the Ottawa River as "a giant toilet that doesn’t always flush."

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Bring back our beaches

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This article, from The Next City, reviews the inadequate sewage treatment processes and the regulatory failures that have led to the closing of beaches across Canada. It documents the environmental benefits arising from the privatization of sewage treatment in England and Wales and examines the institutional changes responsible. It concludes that privatization, if done right, could clean up our beaches.

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Property Rights and the Public Good

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An interview, for CBC Radio’s Ideas program, with Patricia Adams, Elizabeth Brubaker, and Lawrence Solomon. A discussion of the environmental, economic, and social harm wrought in the name of the public good, both in Canada and in the Third World, and of the counterbalancing protections offered by traditional property rights regimes.

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Troubled Waters: Municipal Wastewater Pollution on the Atlantic Coast

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This report, by Martin Nantel, examines the environmental and socioeconomic effects caused by the daily discharge of 1.1 million cubic metres of treated and untreated sewage in the waters of the Atlantic region. The report also addresses governments’ failure to enforce the legislation intended to regulate sewage treatment plants and proposes a solution to alleviate sewage pollution on the East Coast. Continue reading

Municipal Wastewater Pollution in British Columbia

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This report by Martin Nantel examines the environmental damage caused by the discharge of treated and untreated sewage into B.C. waters, paying special attention to the threats posed to the Fraser River salmon. It also addresses governments’ failure to enforce the legislation intended to regulate sewage treatment plants and recommends a number of measures to alleviate sewage pollution in the province. Continue reading

Beyond Quotas: Private Property Solutions to Overfishing

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A chapter from Fish or Cut Bait! The Case for Individual Transferable Quotas in the Salmon Fishery of British Columbia, a collection of essays edited by Laura Jones and Michael Walker discussing tradeable fishing rights and their role in solving the West Coast salmon crisis. This chapter, by Elizabeth Brubaker, documents a century of mismanagement of the Pacific salmon fishery and analyses governments’ incentives to encourage the overfishing and pollution that threaten stocks. It examines alternative regimes that give fisheries owners both the reasons and the authority to conserve stocks and to protect the habitat on which they depend, and suggests that quotas are only the first step in the evolution of stronger property rights to protect and conserve fisheries.
 

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Eliminating sewage pollution; reforming fisheries; siting controversial facilities

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Quebec’s bureaucrats don’t appreciate our findings. They complain that our recent study of sewage pollution in Quebec makes them look like they’re incompetent, or not doing their jobs. And no wonder. The study, by Environment Probe researcher Martin Nantel, points out that although Quebec has made considerable progress since the 1970s (when wastewater treatment facilities served less than two per cent of the population), 376 municipalities, representing 1.5 million people, still flush their sewage directly into lakes and rivers. When we released the study early this year, media interest created great consternation in government ranks. The Environment Minister is now demanding explanations from senior bureaucrats, who berate our uncompromising positions.

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Curbing sewage pollution

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Before world leaders gathered in Halifax for June’s G-7 summit, organizers fretted over an embarrassing problem: one of the city’s sewage pipes emptied just outside the meeting site, spewing raw sewage into the otherwise scenic harbour. Worried that foreign dignitaries and journalists would smell sewage and spot floating condoms, tampon applicators and toilet paper, politicians devised a plan. Their proposal? To extend a submerged pipe into the harbour, improving the view and sparing the visitors’ noses. The federal government ended up scrapping the plan, but not because merely hiding the sewage wouldn’t solve the problem. On the contrary, it simply deemed the $1 million project too expensive.

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