Government needs to improve the quality of data on pollutant releases

(Chapter 3—National Pollutant Release Inventory - Fall 2009 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

Ottawa, 3 November 2009—Environment Canada makes available to the public in a timely way the data reported by certain types of facilities on their release and transfer of pollutants, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his Report tabled today in the House of Commons. However, the Department does not verify the accuracy and completeness of the data.

“The National Pollutant Release Inventory, or NPRI, is important because it helps to track releases and transfers of substances that can have a negative effect on the environment and on the health of Canadians,” said Mr. Vaughan.

Created in 1992, the National Pollutant Release Inventory is an online database maintained by the federal government and the only one of its kind in Canada. It is used by a wide variety of organizations and individuals, both in Canada and internationally, for many different purposes such as guiding policy decisions, researching environmental issues, and providing the general public with information about pollutants in their communities.

The audit found that Environment Canada needs to provide users with enough information to help them understand the limitations of the data, what it can be used for, and where caution needs to be applied.

The audit also found that Environment Canada does not have a consistent approach to assessing the needs of users. Although the Department has carried out some activities to ensure that the data in the Inventory is relevant to its intended purposes and users, it lacks the overall systems and practices required to track user needs over time and measure its progress in meeting them.

“Environment Canada has taken measures to improve NPRI data quality. However, these actions must be guided by an overall strategy and plan to improve data accuracy so that pollution tracking and environmental monitoring can rely on the best possible information,” said Mr. Vaughan.

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The chapter “National Pollutant Release Inventory” is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

For more information, please click here.