As­phalt plant’s years-long de­lay to get new green per­mits called ‘dis­tress­ing’

Ex­perts say sit­u­a­tion is ex­am­ple of lax en­force­ment as neigh­bours up­set over noise and dust


In 2009 the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment or­dered an as­phalt plant in North York to ap­ply for an up­dated en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mit, one that would bet­ter rep­re­sent its op­er­a­tions.

Three years passed be­fore the com­pany ap­plied and another four be­fore the min­istry is­sued a new per­mit in De­cem­ber 2016.

To­day, more than year a later, the min­istry still can’t say for sure how much pol­lu­tion the plant spews.

“To­day, more than year a later, the min­istry still can’t say for sure how much pol­lu­tion the In­gram As­phalt plant spews.”

It’s what On­tario’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Com­mis­sioner Diane Saxe calls “a very dis­tress­ing ex­am­ple of in­ef­fec­tive en­force­ment by the min­istry.”

Even af­ter the com­pany ap­plied for a new per­mit — three years af­ter the min­istry told it to — it took two years and numer­ous pub­lic com­plaints be­fore the min­istry ex­pe­dited the process. Then, another two more years of back and forth over is­sues with the ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore a new per­mit was is­sued.

“It’s def­i­nitely af­fected my busi­ness,” said Frank Tucitto, a me­chanic who works in the com­mer­cial com­plex next door to the plant.

For the peo­ple who work nearby, it’s been a source of frus­tra­tion and worry for years.

“It’s def­i­nitely af­fected my busi­ness,” said Frank Tucitto, a me­chanic who works in the com­mer­cial com­plex next door to the plant. “Peo­ple have com­plained.”

“Who wants to bring their car here and it’s nice and clean in the morn­ing and then they pick it up at night and it’s all cov­ered in dust,” he said.

In the sum­mer­time, when the plant is run­ning ev­ery day, Tuc­citto works with the doors closed. “I can’t stand the noise and the dust fly­ing around,” he said. Linda Hong, who man­ages and lives at the com­plex, shares his con­cern.

“We are suf­fer­ing so many years, no­body cares,” she said.

While this is a story about one as­phalt plant, Saxe said there could be as many as 100,000 other out­dated per­mits in On­tario al­low­ing com­pa­nies to pol­lute un­der rules that by to­day’s stan­dards may not of­fer enough pro­tec­tion for the en­vi­ron­ment or hu­man health.

In On­tario, en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mits, or en­vi­ron­men­tal com­pli­ance ap­provals as they are known of­fi­cially, set the rules for busi­nesses that re­lease pol­lu­tion into the air, land, or wa­ter to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Hot mix as­phalt plants, like In­gram As­phalt, have the po­ten­tial to emit pol­lu­tants that can be dam­ag­ing to both the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­man health, in­clud­ing nitro­gen ox­ides, which can in­ter­act with other chem­i­cals in the at­mos­phere to form acid rain, and benzo(a)pyrene, which the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency con­sid­ers “car­cino­genic to hu­mans.”

Like other in­dus­trial op­er­a­tions, they can also be dusty.

In some ju­ris­dic­tions, en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mits must be up­dated af­ter any­where from 15 months to 10 years, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port by au­di­tor gen­eral Bon­nie Lysyk.

The same can’t be said for thou­sands of out­dated per­mits in On­tario, which in many cases, the pub­lic doesn’t have easy ac­cess to.

Only those is­sued af­ter 2000 are avail­able on­line. Lysyk’s re­port notes “all rel­e­vant doc­u­men­ta­tion” re­gard­ing per­mits is­sued be­fore 2000 is “cur­rently stored in boxed pa­per files in the Min­istry’s off-site stor­age fa­cil­ity.”

The min­istry, though, will up­date th­ese per­mits only if an emit­ter in­di­cates it has changed op­er­a­tions or, in some cases if it re­ceives com­plaints, Lysyk’s re­port says.

In a state­ment, min­istry spokesper­son Gary Wheeler, said “the min­istry takes con­cerns raised by mem­bers of the pub­lic se­ri­ously.”

In the case of In­gram As­phalt, Wheeler ex­plained the process to up­date the per­mit re­quired “ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions” be­fore the min­istry was sat­is­fied with the pro­posal.

In a state­ment, In­gram As­phalt said its hired con­sul­tants “went above and be­yond in­dus­try spe­cific prac­tices” to sat­isfy the min­istry and “pro­tect the neigh­bour­hood.”

The com­pany added that it has made a “large num­ber of im­prove­ments” since buy­ing the plant in 2005 and has worked to ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns by im­ple­ment­ing in­dus­try best prac­tices for daily op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance.

In just the last four years, In­gram has spent more than $1 mil­lion to make en­vi­ron­men­tally fo­cused im­prove­ments to the plant and ex­pects to spend $500,000 more, the state­ment added.

Ex­perts, though, say the case is an in­ex­cus­able ex­am­ple of lax gov­ern­ment en­force­ment.

In­gram As­phalt, owned by Ro­hit Bansal, took over the plant in 2005 un­der an ex­ist­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mit is­sued in 1999. By that point, the plant was more than 20 years old.

The plant, which the com­pany notes is the small­est in the Greater Toronto Area both ge­o­graph­i­cally and by level of ac­tiv­ity, sits near the cor­ner of In­gram Dr. and Sh­effield St. in an area zoned for in­dus­trial use. It is sur­rounded by com­mer­cial prop­er­ties.

The edge of the near­est res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood is al­most 500 me­tres away. A long-term care fa­cil­ity sits closer, less than 400 me­tres away.

It was re­peated com­plaints about dust from the plant that led of­fi­cials to in­spect it in Septem­ber 2009.

At the time, the com­pany said it was re­pair­ing equip­ment, but is­sues with dust con­tin­ued that fall, ac­cord­ing to records ob­tained by one of the plant’s neigh­bours through free­dom of in­for­ma­tion and shared with the Star.

On Oct. 7, 2009, for ex­am­ple, a min­istry of­fi­cial vis­ited the area and found that while there was no dust up­wind of the plant, down­wind a “haze” could be seen along Cale­do­nia Rd. The of­fi­cial said they stopped their car in the di­rect path of the plume for10 min­utes and a coat­ing of light-coloured dust built up on the wind­shield. The plant stopped work soon af­ter and the haze was gone within 15 min­utes, the of­fi­cial wrote.

Records show the min­istry be­lieved the com­pany was break­ing the laws of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act.

Dayna Scott, a York Univer­sity ex­pert in en­vi­ron­men­tal law, ques­tioned why the com­pany was given a per­mit be­fore prov­ing it wasn’t pol­lut­ing more than al­lowed.

“We al­ready know in On­tario that even if ev­ery­body was com­ply­ing with the terms of their per­mits we still would be ex­ceed­ing the health based air qual­ity thresh­olds in some parts of the prov­ince,” she said.

Saxe, On­tario’s en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mis­sioner, said the min­istry has all the power it needs to make com­pa­nies com­ply with en­vi­ron­men­tal laws and “it’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

“The min­istry could have shut them down, they could have amended the ap­proval them­selves,” she said.

The min­istry, though, would only con­sider forc­ing a com­pany to shut down if there was “an im­me­di­ate risk/threat to life or health,” Wheeler said.

Over the years, the min­istry has taken steps to in­ves­ti­gate con­cerns about the plant. In 2015, it tested dust sam­ples from the com­mer­cial com­plex next door and found the dust was typ­i­cal of an in­dus­trial area. Of­fi­cials came to sim­i­lar con­clu­sions about air qual­ity af­ter five days of mon­i­tor­ing in the area in 2016. It never ex­ceeded On­tario’s reg­u­la­tions dur­ing the mon­i­tor­ing, Wheeler said. In Oc­to­ber 2017, the min­istry also tick­eted In­gram As­phalt for pil­ing ag­gre­gate too high, a pos­si­ble source of dust.

In 2009, how­ever, the min­istry was con­cerned enough to order In­gram to ap­ply for an up­dated per­mit within a few months and to make sure it wasn’t pol­lut­ing more than it was al­lowed.

In­gram, though, wouldn’t ap­ply for a new per­mit un­til 2012. That year, the com­pany was also con­victed un­der the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act and fined $65,000 in part for the dust it dis­charged in 2009.

The min­istry said In­gram As­phalt made “sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments” af­ter that, but by early 2014 of­fi­cials still hadn’t made a de­ci­sion about a new per­mit for the plant, which con- tin­ued to op­er­ate un­der the old rules.

In March 2014, Linda Hong got in­volved. Hong, who man­ages the Kin­cort Ser­vice Mall right next door to In­gram As­phalt, said she’d heard from sev­eral ten­ants who were wor­ried about the ef­fects of dust, noise, and other pol­lu­tants on their busi­nesses and health.

The min­istry re­ceived more than 100 com­plaints about In­gram in both 2016 and 2017, and most were from Hong. She logged un­of­fi­cial com­plaints through her Twit­ter ac­count @Un­luck­yRes­i­dent. And, she filed ap­pli­ca­tions un­der On­tario’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Bill of Rights ask­ing the min­istry to re­view In­gram As­phalt’s ex­ist­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mit.

Hong also con­nected with her city coun­cil­lor, Frank Di Gior­gio, whose com­mu­nity of­fice is across the street, less than 150 me­tres from the plant it­self. Di Gior­gio said his of­fice has been hear­ing con­cerns from area res­i­dents and busi­nesses for years.

From the per­spec­tive of Mike Crupi, who used to own the as­phalt plant and still owns the prop­erty on which it op­er­ates, how­ever, this is a case of NIMBYISM pure and sim­ple.

“Look you’re in an in­dus­trial area, ev­ery­body makes dust,” he said. “You ever driven down a road in the spring time? Dust is fly­ing ev­ery­where un­til they sweep the roads.”

The as­phalt plant, he said, pro­vides a needed ser­vice that the city re­lies on. As­phalt isn’t all bad ei­ther, he added, not­ing it’s one of the most re­cy­cled prod­ucts in the world.

While Crupi agreed In­gram As­phalt has to adapt to en­vi­ron­men­tal rules as they evolve in On­tario, he’s con­cerned about the ap­proach that’s been taken.

Peo­ple should be say­ing “how do we help In­gram?” he said not “how do we get rid of them?”

He’s frus­trated by the neigh­bour­hood com­plaints against the as­phalt plant, par­tic­u­larly from Hong.

While Hong said she lives at the com­plex next door to the plant be­cause it’s easy for her, es­pe­cially in the win­ter, Crupi said she should be the one to move, not the plant which is op­er­at­ing in an in­dus­trial area.

“Are we a pretty ugly in­dus­try, ab­so­lutely, un­for­tu­nately, but that’s the na­ture of what con­struc­tion is, what paving is,” he said.

“If you’re say­ing ‘hey is a dress man­u­fac­tur­ing plant there bet­ter than Op­ti­mum Waste or In­gram As­phalt,’ no ar­gu­ment, but who’s more nec­es­sary?” he said.

“We’re a ser­vice in­dus­try, we ser- vice what is Toronto, we give them a needed ser­vice that saves them money and makes the city vi­able.”

Hong’s com­plaints made an im­pact though. Two months af­ter she said she be­gan call­ing the min­istry to com­plain, of­fi­cials “iden­ti­fie(d) a need to ex­pe­dite the re­view” of In­gram As­phalt’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

At this point, it had been al­most five years since the min­istry or­dered the com­pany to get a new per­mit.

Over the next two years, the min­istry would go back and forth re­peat­edly with In­gram As­phalt about is­sues with their ap­pli­ca­tion.

Each time the com­pany re­sponded the min­istry seemed to have more ques­tions and con­cerns.

Be­tween the sum­mer of 2014 and Jan­uary 2016, the min­istry sent six let­ters ask­ing for im­prove­ments and a se­nior air engi­neer with the min­istry was ready to refuse In­gram As­phalt’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a new per­mit.

In an email to a col­league, the engi­neer wrote: “I would like to refuse this file, and have them come in when they are ready. We can ex­pe­dite the ap­pli­ca­tion if you wish when they send a new one. I can’t keep this file open any longer.”

Some seven months later, the min­istry re­ceived an up­dated ap­pli­ca­tion from In­gram that ad­dressed their con­cerns and in De­cem­ber 2016 they is­sued the com­pany a new per­mit, which they say con­tains sig­nif­i­cant con­di­tions.

In a fur­ther ef­fort to ad­dress con­cerns, the com­pany is paving the site, us­ing canopy sys­tems to con­trol dust and in­stalling par­tial en­clo­sures for truck load­outs, an of­fi­cial wrote in a let­ter to Hong, ear­lier this year. But the story doesn’t end here. The new per­mit re­quires the com­pany to do pol­lu­tion test­ing to prove that it is only pol­lut­ing as much as it’s al­lowed.

While In­gram As­phalt did those tests in Septem­ber 2017, the min­istry later de­ter­mined is­sues with the plant’s duct­work meant the test­ing hadn’t in­cluded emis­sions from stor­age tanks.

On Nov. 3, the min­istry or­dered In­gram As­phalt to stop pro­duc­ing as­phalt un­til they had made re­pairs, which were com­pleted on Nov. 8. The com­pany will do another round of pol­lu­tion test­ing in the spring when In­gram As­phalt re­sumes full op­er­a­tions, Wheeler said.

By that time, more than eight years will have passed since the min­istry or­dered the com­pany to ap­ply for a new per­mit.



The plant sits near the cor­ner of In­gram Dr. and Sh­effield St. in an area zoned for in­dus­trial use. The edge of the near­est res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood is al­most 500 me­tres away. A long-term care fa­cil­ity sits closer, less than 400 me­tres away.


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