Pollution Legal Definition:

The discharge of a toxic or contaminating substance that is likely to have an adverse effect on the natural environment or life.

Related Terms: Pollutant

The European Union Water Framework Directive, at §2(33) defines pollution as:

"... the direct or indirect introduction, as a result of human activity, of substances or heat into the water or land which may be harmful to human health or the quality of aquatic ecosystems or terrestrial ecosystems directly depending on aquatic ecosystems, which result in damage to material property, or which impair or interfere with amenities and other legitimate uses of the environment."

The Environmental Management Act of British Columbia defines pollution as:

"... the presence in the environment of substances or contaminants that substantially alter or impair the usefulness of the environment."

pollutionPollution is defined in all but name in this sample from Ontario's Environmental Protection Act, §14:

"... a person shall not discharge a contaminant or cause or permit the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment, if the discharge causes or may cause an adverse effect."

Similar to the definition of marine pollution given in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Canada Shipping Act 2001, at §165 defines a pollutant in the context of maritime law, as follows:

"... a substance that, if added to any waters, would degrade or alter or form part of a process of degradation or alteration of the quality of the waters to an extent that is detrimental to their use by humans or by an animal or a plant that is useful to humans; and any water that contains a substance in such a quantity or concentration, or that has been so treated, processed or changed, by heat or other means, from a natural state, that it would, if added to any waters, degrade or alter or form part of a process of degradation or alteration of the quality of the waters to an extent that is detrimental to their use by humans or by an animal or a plant that is useful to humans."

Historically, before the state's foray into the prohibition of acts or omissions which harm the environment through criminal or regulatory law, the only avenue to control pollution through the law was through the civil action and tort of nuisance.

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