UBC fined $1.2 million for Release of Ammonia-laden Water

The University of British Columbia and CIMCO Refrigeration were recently sentenced for offences committed in violation of the Canadian Fisheries Act, related to a 2014 ammonia-laden water release that ended up in a tributary of the Fraser River.

CIMCO Refrigeration was fined $800,000 after pleading guilty to depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into an area that may enter water frequented by fish.

The University of British Columbia was fined $1.2 million after being found guilty of the several offences including the depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek) and failing to report the incident in a timely manner.

Screenshot courtesy of Ministry of Justice.

In addition to the fine, the University was also ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality at the outfall where the release occurred.

The University has filed an appeal against these convictions.

Background on the Incident

On September 12, 2014, Environment and Climate Change Canada was contacted regarding an ammonia odour at an outfall ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The source of ammonia was identified as coming from a refrigeration plant at Thunderbird Arena at the University of British Columbia.

CIMCO Refrigeration and the University were completing repairs of the refrigeration system and used a negative pressure device, known as a Venturi, to purge residual ammonia vapours from the system. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall, through a ditch, and into Booming Ground Creek, which is a tributary of the Fraser River.

Officers and park rangers found approximately 70 dead fish in Booming Ground Creek in the two days following the discharge. The level of ammonia deposited in the water in the storm drain and ditch was analyzed and found to be harmful to fish.

As a result of this conviction, both organizations’ names will be added to the Environmental Offender’s Registry.