CN sued by Mattagami First Nation over oil spills

As reported in Timmins Today, the Mattagami First Nation, a northern Ontario Indigenous community, is suing CN Rail for alleged environmental and cultural damage caused by two 2015 derailments that led to significant oil spills.

The Mattagami First Nation alleges in its statement of claim that the spills near Gogama, Ont., damaged the local environment and surrounding waterways.

The $30 million suit alleges that the damage, in turn, has created health risks for the population and crippled community members’ ability to observe their Indigenous traditions including fishing, hunting and gathering.

It says the two oil spills, which took place in February and March 2015, collectively poured millions of litres of oil into the area around Gogama, which is about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury, Ont.

Transportation Safety Board inspectors assess the site and the damaged cars in the train derailment near Gogama, Ont. (TSB)

CN declined to comment on the filing, adding it is committed to cleaning up environmental damage caused by the derailments.

Mattagami’s allegations have not been proven in court.

The First Nation claimed the 2015 spills impacted many facets of life for community members.

“Mattagami First Nation members have suffered stress, distress, anxiety and worry as a result of the contamination of the land, waters, plants and animals on which they rely,” reads the First Nation’s statement of claim, which was filed in March but served to CN on Monday.

The suit alleges negligence from CN and claims the rail company breached its standard of care when conducting operations ranging from track maintenance to staff training. It also alleges CN has created a corporate culture that valued speed over safety.

Canadian Government will clean up Iqaluit dumpsite

As reported in Nunatsiaq Online, an old Iqaluit dumpsite littered with metal refuse, fuel barrels and other toxic waste overlooking the Sylvia Grinnell River will soon be removed, following a multi-million dollar remediation contract recently issued by the federal government.  Iqaluit is the capital city of the Canadian territory of Nunavut.  It sits on vast Baffin Island in Frobisher Bay, in Canada’s far north.

Transport Canada has confirmed that it awarded over $5.4 million to Kudlik Construction Ltd. for cleanup of the dump,which lies along the mouth of Sylvia Grinnell River—a popular source of fish.

Iqaluit Dump Site (Photo Credit: Steve Decharme)

The contract follows recommendations outlined in a 2016 report by Arcadis Canada Inc., commissioned by Transport Canada, that detected the hazardous debris buried in the area and noted in earlier studies dating to 2001.

“The nature of the debris in the main landfill and scrap metal dump suggest that the [United States Air Force] was likely responsible for depositing a large portion of the wastes currently found on the site,” said the report, which estimated the dump was started around 1963.

That’s when the Frobisher Bay airbase and weather station was sold to Canada by the U.S. military, but not before American personnel bulldozed old cars, appliances, fuel containers and other toxic refuse over a cliff near the river, the report said.

The site was used intermittently until the 1970s, when it was abandoned for another landfill near Apex.

The area is still used today as a “rogue dumping site” by local residents, the study said, and that could be another source of contaminants. Along with the remains of vintage army vehicles and cars, appliances and modern waste, like car batteries.

Surveyors identified toxic petroleum hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, pesticides, and other hazardous materials at four zones within the dumpsite, extending from higher ground to within a few metres of the river.

Work will begin at the site in the coming weeks and will continue until October, Transport Canada said. The remaining non-toxic waste will be sealed into a new landfill and monitored closely until 2020.

“It’s great news that the Sylvia Grinnell area is being remediated,” Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern told Nunatsiaq News July 25. But she said other old dump sites grounds surrounding the city remain unaddressed despite concerning signs of contamination.

The question is: who is responsible for cleaning them up?

Since many of the contaminated sites predate Iqaluit’s incorporation as a municipality, the responsibility for their remediation—such as the old metal dump—can be hotly contested.

Transport Canada said its responsibilities to remediate land in Iqaluit extend to areas like the Sylvia Grinnell dump, as part of an agreement to cleanup lands around the airfield that were transferred to the Government of Nunavut in the 1990s.

But in submissions to the Nunavut Planning Commission for its upcoming draft Nunavut Land Use Plan, the City of Iqaluit identified eight contaminated sites in and around the municipality that don’t fall under the airfield agreement.

Those include areas that have yet to be remediated in West 40, Federal Road, Apex, Upper Base and Lower Base.

Redfern said various reports on contamination around Iqaluit often never find their way to the right departments, leading to confusion or inaction between municipal, territorial and federal governments on the implementation of their recommendations.

And costs associated with remediation fall well outside the financial abilities of Nunavut municipalities.

“The local level governments have never had the money to effectively be able to handle environmental remediation within their communities,” Redfern said, adding that in her two terms as mayor she’s approached federal and territorial governments about “half a dozen times” on the issue.

“Many of the residents have wondered how these sites get prioritized and the city and the residents would greatly appreciate seeing all these historical sites remediated.”

A report commissioned in 1995 at the site of the old Apex dump found elevated—but below hazardous—levels of lead, copper, zinc and PCBs in nearby soil and marine sediment on the nearby shoreline.

Redfern said the possibility of leaking contaminants from the dump could effect the quality of clams in the bay, but governments not addressed the issue.

“What is the status of the Apex dump, is it still leaching, was remediation ever done?” she asked. “If it is leaching toxins then notices should be put up around the area.”

And the city’s closed North 40 metal dump—northwest of downtown Iqaluit—also dates to the era of the U.S. air base, and shows signs the site may be leaking.

Another study by researchers from the University of Saskatchewan published in 2010 noted elevated levels of hydrocarbons in Iqaluit’s Lower Base area, but concluded the levels are too low to be of risk to human health.

Lower Base used to be a dumping ground for spent fuel canisters, dating back to the earliest period of the U.S. air base in the 1940s.

Redfern added that a study estimated costs to remediate toxins discovered in the last of of the old Butler buildings in Lower Base, one of the oldest structures in Iqaluit, at more than $1 million.

Modern Iqaluit, or Frobisher Bay, was founded when the U.S. military constructed the Iqaluit airfield during World War II, as a rest point for planes flying to Europe on the Crimson Route.

During the Cold War, Frobisher Bay became a central relay point for construction of DEW line stations across Canada’s North, which were built to detect bombers from the Soviet Union crossing into North America through the Arctic.

After the DEW line was replaced by the North Warning System, starting in the late 1980s, many of those stations were abandoned in the early 1990s, leaving behind heaps of toxic waste and contaminants.

In 1996, the Department of National Defence began remediation of 21 DEW line sites across the Arctic at a cost estimated at over $575 million in 2014.

Despite being surrounded by many of the same hydrocarbon and PCB contamination garbage leftover from military uses, only a few hazardous sites near Iqaluit—like Upper Base and Resolution Island—were marked for cleanup as part of that project.

“While remediation [of Resolution Island] provided benefits to the community of Iqaluit, primarily through contracts and employment, the community of Iqaluit has not received the same level of special designation or status for remediation clean up,” the City of Iqaluit said in its submissions to the Draft Nunavut Land Use Plan.

“Despite the fact the Americans set up [Iqaluit] and used key areas within the community for military purposes.”

Global Spill Response Market worth $34 Billion by 2022

Market Insight Reports recently released Global Emergency Spill Response Market Research Report 2017 to 2022 that presents an in-depth assessment of the Emergency Spill Response including enabling technologies, key trends, market drivers, challenges, standardization, regulatory landscape, deployment models, operator case studies, opportunities, future roadmap, value chain, ecosystem player profiles and strategies.  The report also presents forecasts for Emergency Spill Response investments from 2017 till 2022.

This study answers several questions for stakeholders, primarily which market segments they should focus upon during the next five years to prioritize their efforts and investments. These stakeholders include Emergency Spill Response manufacturers such as Oil Spill Response, Marine Well Containment, Polyeco, Vikoma International, Desmi A/S, Veolia Environnement, Clean Harbors, US Ecology, Adler and Allan, Markleen A/S, Elastec.

Primary sources are mainly industry experts from core and related industries, and suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, service providers, and organizations related to all segments of the industry’s supply chain. The bottom-up approach was used to estimate the global market size of Emergency Spill Response based on end-use industry and region, in terms of value. With the data triangulation procedure and validation of data through primary interviews, the exact values of the overall parent market, and individual market sizes were determined and confirmed in this study.

 

Mount Polley Subject To Private Prosecution Due To Province’s Failure To Act

Article by Paula Lombardi from Siskinds LLP

In the fall of 2016 MiningWatch Canada initiated a private prosecution under the Fisheries Act against the British Columbia government and Mount Polley mine as a result of the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam in 2014. The failure of the dam resulted in 25 million cubic metres of washwater and mine waste being released downstream into Hazelton Creek, Polley Lake and Qeusnel Lake. The contents of the washwater and mining waste including mercury, lead and other toxic waste.

In the charges, MiningWatch Canada alleged that the dam released mine waste in 2014 directly into British Columbia’s Cariboo region creating a new valley and permanently destroying or altering fish habitat. It is believed that the release of the mine waste has impacted 20 different species of fish.

Mount Polley Mine

In March 2017, MiningWatch’s private prosecution against both the province and Mount Polley Mining was stayed. A lawyer for British Columbia stated that the private prosecution was not in the public interest because the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada were already investigating the incident.

The newly elected British Columbia government announced the first week of August 2017 that it would not be pursuing charges against the mine before the expiration of three year limitation deadline on the basis that “an investigation was still ongoing.” This decision leaves it solely to the Federal government to determine whether or not to pursue charges against the mine under the Fisheries Act.

On August 4, 2017, three years after the spill of the mine waste, and at the end of the three year limitation period within which the province can initiate charges, Bev Sellars, indigenous activist and former Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, filed charges against the Mount Polley Mining Corporation. 15 charges in total, 10 under the B.C. Environmental Management Act and 5 under the B.C. Mines Act, were brought by Bev Sellars as part of a private prosecution against Mount Polley. These charges relate to the dumping of contaminated mining waste into the environment and surrounding waterways, and poor and unsafe operational practices contrary to the permits issued to the corporation and the statutory regime. These charges can potentially be taken over by the provincial government. The private prosecution is supported by numerous organizations including MiningWatch Canada, West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, the Wilderness Committee and the First Nation Women Advocating for Responsible Mining.

B.C’s chief inspector of mines along with an independent panel of engineering experts concluded that the collapse resulted from a poorly designed dam that failed to take into account drainage and erosion failures.

The British Columbia auditor general in its May 2016 report concluded that compliance and enforcement in British Columbia’s Ministry of Mines, Energy and Petroleum Resources and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change were inadequate and “not set up to protect the province from environmental risks.”

The news release relating to the May 2016 report from the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia stated the following as it relates to the departments audit of compliance and enforcement of the mining sector:

“Almost all of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program were not met,” [says Bellringer]. “The compliance and enforcement activities of both the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Environment are not set up to protect the province from environmental risks.”

The findings indicate major gaps in resources, planning and tools in both ministries. For example, both ministries have insufficient staff to address a growing number of permits, and staff work with cumbersome and incomplete data systems.

As a result, monitoring and inspections of mines were inadequate to ensure mine operators complied with requirements. Additionally, some mining companies have not provided government with enough financial security deposits to cover potential reclamation costs if a mining company defaults on its obligations. It’s underfunded by over $1 billion – a liability that could potentially fall to taxpayers.
In light of the May 2016 Auditor General’s report, we expect that the goal with the filing of these recent charges would be to encourage the province to take over the charges and enforce its own laws. Under the B. C. Environmental Management Act, the Court can order alternative remedies including but not limited to remediation, compensation and restoration of fish habitat.

 The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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About the Author

Paula Lombardi is a partner of Siskinds LLP,  and practices in the areas of environmental, municipal, regulatory and administrative law.  Prior to joining Siskinds, Paula worked as an associate at a Bay Street law firm where her practice focused on occupational health and safety, environmental and regulatory matters.

Paula has a great deal of experience in: providing due diligence advice; dealing with contamination issues; handling of organic chemicals and hazardous wastes; obtaining environmental approvals; obtaining planning and development approvals; providing advice to municipalities; defending environmental prosecutions; and assisting companies with environmental and regulatory compliance. Paula has appeared before numerous administrative tribunals.

 

Environmental Insurance – Introduction and Environmental Insurance Courses

Save the date: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 The Berkley Canada (a Berkley Company) Environmental Team is pleased to confirm we will be offering two Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) accredited courses: Environmental Insurance – Introduction; and Environmental Insurance – Advanced Topics. The courses are open to commercial insurance brokers, asset managers, risk managers, insurance buyers, lawyers and consultants interested in learning about environmental insurance. More details to follow shortly. Please contact me at cspensieri@berkleycanada.com should you want more information.