Toronto, Canadian Press
February 21, 2003 Friday Final Edition

Massive water-taking from river defended

Ontario's environment minister insisted Wednesday he was following advice from his ministry when he decided to allow a company to take millions of litres of water a day from a river in eastern Ontario.

Chris Stockwell also defended parliamentary assistant, Bill Murdoch, who said the government bore no responsibility for the Walkerton tragedy despite a judicial inquiry that found it did.

Stockwell overturned a decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal that limited the amount of water Swiss-based mining multinational OMYA could take from the Tay River, which temporarily ran dry two years ago.

Stockwell said allowing OMYA to take 4.5 million litres of water a day from the Tay near Perth wouldn't have a negative impact on river water levels..

"I chose basically the decision put forward by the Ministry of the Environment," said Stockwell.

Environmentalists and the opposition were outraged Stockwell had interfered, saying he had no new scientific evidence on which to base his decision.

They said he was ignoring recommendations of the Walkerton inquiry that called for comprehensive watershed protection and management.