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GFL Fined $300,000 for illegal sale of PERC

On December 10, 2018, GFL Environmental Inc. was sentenced after pleading guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice to violating federal environmental legislation. The company was fined $300,000.

The charges were laid January 2017 after inspectors determined that GFL had supplied tetrachloroethylene, also known as PERC, to nine dry cleaning operations in Toronto, Newmarket, Scarborough, Mississauga, Waterloo, London and Cambridge that had not adhered to containment measures required by law.  According to an indictment filed with the court at that time, infractions noted by enforcement officers included inadequate wastewater containment systems and floor drain plugs that were not resistant to PERC.

The company, along with president and CEO Patrick Dovigi, vice-president of sales and marketing John Petlichkovski, and Louie Servos, identified as a GFL employee, were each charged with 16 counts under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, according to the indictment.

The resolution presented in court on December 10th saw GFL pleading guilty to two counts. The remaining charges were withdrawn at the request of the Crown.

After an investigation led by Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers, charges were laid and GFL Environmental Inc. pleaded guilty to two counts of contravening the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations (SOR 203/79) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 for selling tetrachloroethylene, commonly referred to as “PERC” to owners or operators of dry-cleaning facilities that did not meet regulatory standards.

GFL was fined $150,000 for each offence; the minimum fine for a first-time offender is $100,000. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 allows courts to fine offenders up to a maximum of $4 million.

SOR 203/79 prohibits anyone from selling tetrachloroethylene to dry cleaners unless the dry-cleaning facility is compliant with the equipment specifications set out in the Regulations, which aim to reduce releases into the environment.

dry cleaning equipment

The Regulations are unique in that in places the onus of the seller of “PERC” to ensure that the buyer (typically dry cleaning facilities) have the proper equipment and training to prevent the release of PERC into the environment.

Tetrachloroethylene, used commercially since the early 1900s, has been an important chlorinated solvent worldwide. Tetrachloroethylene is a colourless, volatile liquid with an ether-like odour. It is also commonly referred to as perchloroethylene or PERC.

The most important routes of exposure to tetrachloroethylene for the general public are ingesting contaminated water and inhaling ambient air.  Improper disposal and releases from dry cleaning facilities and landfills can lead to groundwater contamination and potential environmental exposures.

PERC is a dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL), meaning that it is only slightly soluble and more dense than water.  When released in the subsurface, it will migrate downward, adsorbing into soil particles, slightly dissolving into groundwater, and eventually making its way to bedrock where it will pool and continue to dissolve into the groundwater.  As a result, PERC is very difficult to remediate from the subsurface.

As a result of this conviction, GFL Environmental Inc. will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

The $300,000 fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.  The Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) is a specified purpose account, administered by Environment Canada, to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment. The Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) follows the Polluter Pays Principle to help ensure that those who cause environmental damage or harm to wildlife take responsibility for their actions.

Rare Jail Sentence for Environmental Offence in Canada

On August 21, 2018, Collingwood Prime Realty Holdings Corp. and its director, Mr. Issa El-Hinn, were sentenced in the Ontario Court of Justice for offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 related to contraventions of the PCB Regulations.

The charges stem from old electrical transformers and capacitors in use on the former Goodyear property at 101 Mountain Rd., which is now owned by Collingwood Prime Realty.

The property at 101 Mountain Rd., used to be a Goodyear plant. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

The court sentenced Mr. El-Hinn to a 45-day jail term, which will be served on weekends, for failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order. The Court also sentenced the corporation and Mr. El-Hinn to pay a combined penalty of $420,000 to be directed to the federal Environmental Damages Fund.

On April 30, 2015, Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers launched an investigation following the company’s failure to comply with an environmental protection compliance order. The investigation revealed that two electrical transformers and eight electrical capacitors contained higher-than-allowable PCB levels and that the equipment had not been sent for destruction to an authorized facility. The defendants pleaded guilty on September 26, 2017, to ten counts of contravening the PCB Regulations made pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and one count of failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

PCBs are toxic industrial chemical substances that are harmful to aquatic ecosystems and species that feed primarily on aquatic organisms.

Earlier this year, Collingwood Fire Department successfully prosecuted Collingwood Prime Realty Holdings Corp., and its owner El Hinn for multiple fire code violations at the property at 101 Mountain Rd.

Mine fined $100,000 for not Monitoring Effluent

On August 20, 2018, Lupin Mines Incorporated was ordered in the Nunavut Court of Justice to pay $100,000 after pleading guilty to a violation under the Fisheries Act related to the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations. Of the total penalty, $80,000 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

An investigation launched by Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers revealed that Lupin Mines Incorporated did not carry out an environmental effects monitoring study within the prescribed period, contrary to the requirements of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations. Lupin Mines Incorporated has since completed the required study.

Owners and operators of mining companies are required by law to conduct environmental effects monitoring studies that examine the potential effects of their effluent (discharge) on fish populations and aquatic invertebrates.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish. The Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations authorize the deposit of effluent, provided that conditions prescribed in the Regulations are observed.

Lupin Gold Mine, Nunavut

Quebec Town Fined $100,000 for Violating Canadian PCB Regulations

Earlier this year, the Town of Amos, located in northwestern Quebec, pleaded guilty in court to one charge and was fined $100,000 for violating the PCB Regulations, thereby committing an offence under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

Amos is located 110 km northeast of Rouyn-Noranda in northwestern Québec. The Town has a population of 13,000.  Its main resources are spring water, gold, and wood products, including paper.

Charges were laid against the Town of Amos after an investigation conducted by staff from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) showed that, in April 2015, the Town of Amos sold products containing PCBs in a concentration of 50 mg/kg or more, which is in violation of the PCB Regulations.

The amount of the fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

What are PCBs?

PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) are a group of man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms. The number of chlorine atoms and their location in a PCB molecule determine many of its physical and chemical properties.  Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including:

  • Electrical, heat transfer and hydraulic equipment
  • Plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products
  • Pigments, dyes and carbonless copy paper
  • Other industrial applications

Although no longer commercially produced in North America, PCBs may be present in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban. Products that may contain PCBs include:

  • Transformers and capacitors
  • Electrical equipment including voltage regulators, switches, re-closers, bushings, and electromagnets
  • Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems
  • Old electrical devices or appliances containing PCB capacitors
  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Cable insulation
  • Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork
  • Adhesives and tapes
  • Oil-based paint
  • Caulking
  • Plastics
  • Carbonless copy paper
  • Floor finish

The PCBs used in these products were chemical mixtures made up of a variety of individual chlorinated biphenyl components known as congeners. Most commercial PCB mixtures are known in the North America by their industrial trade names, the most common being Arochlor.

Canadian Government’s Role in the Management of PCBs?

Health Canada and Environment Canada have taken strong and effective steps under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to control the use, importation, manufacture, storage and release of PCBs.

CEPA states that PCBs are toxic, and Environment Canada is working on revisions to CEPA that would further strengthen controls over all PCBs in service or in storage anywhere in Canada.

The Government has also established regulations regarding hazardous wastes and has signed a number of international agreements, such as the Canada-USAgreement on PCBs, and the Basel Convention, which are all aimed at the safe use, storage, transport and disposal of PCBs, both nationally and internationally.

In addition, Health Canada continues to monitor the amount of PCBs in food, air and water to ensure that Canadians are not exposed to levels that pose a health risk. Health Canada also tracks and assesses ongoing research about the health effects of exposures to PCBs.

Canada: $150K fine for improper storage of petroleum products

It could be a sign of a toughening of enforcement in Canada.  A company in Saskatchewan was recently fined $150,000 for improper storage of petroleum hydrocarbons under the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations, made pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.  The company, Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc., recently plead guilty to transferring petroleum products into unidentified storage-tank systems.  Storage of petroleum products in unmarked containers is a violation of the federal regulations.

In 2016, enforcement officers from Environment Canada and Climate Change conducted an investigation of Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc.  During the course of the inspection, they discovered the petroleum product in an unmarked container.  No spillage of petroleum product had occurred.

The Court ordered the company to pay a total penalty of $150,000 to be directed to the federal Environmental Damages Fund.  As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc. (CPS) is a leading provider of agricultural products and services for western Canadian growers. A subsidiary of Nutrien Ltd., CPS provides a wide range of services to the agricultural industry including agronomy Services; crop protection;  plant nutrition; precision agriculture; fuel, oil and lubricants; and storage and handling. CPS has over 220 retail locations in communities across Western Canada.

CPS offers Esso bulk fuels to the farm and commercial market across the Prairies through an agreement with Imperial Oil

The Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations aim to reduce the risk of contaminating soil and groundwater due to spills and leaks of petroleum products from storage-tank systems.  The regulations require owners and operators to identify their storage-tank systems with an identification number from Environment and Climate Change Canada. This requirement allows an inventory of storage-tank systems to be maintained in a registry that captures the type of tank, the type of piping, and the year of installation of the storage-tank system. Suppliers that deliver petroleum products and allied petroleum products (e.g., thinner for vinyl coatings) are prohibited from transferring petroleum products into any storage tank, unless the storage-tank system identification number is visible.

U.S. EPA Releases Annual Enforcement Statistics

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently released its annual environmental enforcement report.  In its report, which covers prosecutions for the 2016-2017 fiscal year (ending September 30th 2017), the U.S. EPA states that nearly $5 billion (U.S.) had been levied out in criminal fines and civil penalties.  It also stated that enforcement actions have also led to the commitment by companies to clean-up contaminated sites across the U.S.

In contrast, Canada does not issue an annual enforcement report.  However, the total sum of announced penalties by the Canadian federal government totaled approximately $15 million in 2017.

The bulk of the monetary fines levied in the U.S. was from the settlement with Volkswagen.  The company agreed to pay $1.45 billion (U.S.) in civil penalties because of its use of illegal software to foil emissions testing.

The U.S. EPA was alerted by an environmental activist group, The International Council on Clean Transportation in 2013 that on-road emission tests of Volkswagen vehicles were dramatically different than off-road test in garages.  The finding led U.S. EPA officials to discover that Volkswagen had installed software in vehicles to shut off the emissions control system during driving and only turned it on during off-road testing.

A worker tests a red 2016 Volkswagen AG Golf TDI emissions certification vehicle on Sept. 22, 2015. (Photo Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

The $1.45 billion fine levied against Volkswagen still dwarfs the $6 billion penalty paid by BP for the 2010 oil spill from Horizon One oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

In contrast, the largest fine ever meted out in Canada was $3.5 million (Cdn.) to Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC in 2017 wastewater spill at a mine.

Included in the report, was the note of the legal commitment made by companies clean-up sites they had contaminated.  The estimated cost of that clean-ups is $1.2 billion (U.S.).

With respect to jail time for environmental criminals, the U.S. EPA prosecuted individuals and U.S. courts meted out a total of 150 years in jail for persons found guilty of environmental offences.  In contrast, the total jail time Canadian courts meted out for environmental offenders was less than one year.

Critics of the U.S. EPA note that the high level of enforcement actions may not continue.  Critics point to an analysis by the New York Times in late 2017 that concluded that the U.S. EPA under its latest head, Scott Pruitt, has initiated about one-third fewer civil enforcement cases than the number under the previous U.S. EPA director.

Ontario Waste Disposal Site fined $105,000 for Failing to comply with a Court Order

Tony DePasquale and Copper Cliff Metals and Wrecking Corp. recently plead guilty to one offence under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (EPA) for failing to comply with a Court Order to remove waste from a site.  The defendants were fined a total of $105,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $26,250.

Tony DePasquale is the sole Director and Chief Executive Officer of Copper Cliff Metals and Wrecking Corp., which operated an approved waste disposal site on Twenty Rd. in the Regional Municipality of Niagara.

On April 8, 2010, the ministry issued a ministry order to both defendants ordering the removal of waste located on the site.  The Order was not complied with, which resulted in charges and convictions against both defendants.

As part of the conviction, the court issued a Section 190 Court Order against Mr. DePasquale and the Copper Cliff Metals and Wrecking Corp., which mandated the removal of waste pile # 16 from the site.  The order also required the waste be disposed of properly and that the defendants provide documentation and proof of removal, to the ministry by June 22, 2013.  The Court Order was not complied with.  The incidents were referred to the ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch, resulting in charges and one conviction against each defendant.

The waste pile has now been removed.

U.S. EPA Settlement with UConn resolves Improper PCB Disposal Activity

The University of Connecticut has taken steps to ensure its PCB waste is properly disposed of in the future to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) that it improperly disposed of PCBs during a 2013 renovation project at its Storrs campus.

An aerial view of the Storrs Campus on Oct. 9, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)Morenus/UConn Photo)

The university disposed of the waste containing polychlorinated biphenyls during a 2013 window replacement project in violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.  Working with its contractors and an environmental consultant, UConn’s renovation project led to the removal of soils contaminated with PCBs from the window caulk, which are classified as PCB “remediation waste.” PCB remediation waste can be disposed of only at approved facilities, but the transportation manifest did not identify the material as such, and the material consequently was shipped to a facility not licensed for this disposal.  Earlier this year, EPA notified UConn of its potential liability under federal law.  UConn and EPA then reached an agreement to resolve the violation. UConn will also pay a penalty of $28,125 as part of this settlement.

“This action demonstrates how important it is that all parties involved with PCB waste ensure that every step in the handling and disposal of the PCBs is done consistent with the regulations,” said Deb Szaro, acting regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “EPA appreciates the steps UConn has taken to minimize future violations.”

Once in the environment, PCBs do not readily break down and therefore may remain for long periods of time, cycling between air, water, and soil.  PCBs are classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen and have been shown to cause other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system.

For more information about health concerns and safe handling practices for PCBs (www.epa.gov/pcbs)

SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. EPA reaches settlement with Hazardous Waste Facility over Environmental Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Region 10, recently reached a settlement with Emerald Services, Inc., a hazardous waste storage and treatment facility in Tacoma, Washington, over violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and violations of the facility’s RCRA permit. This enforcement action was coordinated with the Washington Department of Ecology. The facility is located within the boundaries of the Puyallup Tribe’s reservation.

Emerald Services manages large volumes of hazardous waste, solvents, and antifreeze and re-refines used oil at the Tacoma facility. Emerald was purchased by Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc. on July 8, 2016, and both Emerald and Safety-Kleen are owned by parent holding company, Clean Harbors, Inc. Ensuring that funds will be available if the company’s operations harm people or damage property is an essential element of the “cradle to grave” RCRA hazardous waste management program.

Emerald Services Inc. Facility, Washington State, U.S.A.

This settlement resolves several RCRA violations at the Tacoma-area facility. Specifically, the company failed to maintain adequate third-party liability insurance coverage of the facility for the past six years.  As part of the settlement, Emerald Services agreed to pay a $125,800 penalty and amended its current insurance policy to comply with its RCRA permit.

“Having adequate insurance coverage for your business, especially one that stores and handles hazardous waste, isn’t an option, it’s the law,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Region 10 Compliance and Enforcement Division in Seattle. “Liability insurance is a key requirement of the hazardous waste permitting system, ensuring that commercial hazardous waste handlers operate in a safe manner to protect people’s health and the environment.”

There is a history of spills and incidents at Emerald’s Tacoma facility. In 2013, a 1,900-gallon spill of a highly dangerous fuel oil/asphalt mixture injured a worker. Emerald’s pattern of spills and releases suggests the facility may have a higher probability of future accidents, underscoring the need to have liability coverage for possible bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration.

Violating environmental laws puts public health and the environment at risk. EPA protects communities by ensuring compliance with federal environmental laws. By fairly enforcing environmental laws, we level the playing field by deterring violators and denying companies an unfair business advantage over facilities and businesses that follow the rules.

PF Résolu Canada Inc. is fined $100,000 for Environmental Offence

PF Résolu Canada Inc., a North American company in the forest products industry, was recently fined $100,000 after pleading guilty to violating subsection 36(3) of the Canadian Fisheries Act.

The investigation, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, revealed that PF Résolu Canada Inc. had committed a violation to the Act, namely the deposit of a deleterious substance in waters frequented by fish.  The amount of the fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

The deposit of a deleterious substance was into Comeau Creek situated in North Shore of Baie Comeau.  PF Résolu Canada Inc.’s Baie Comeau newsprint mill is located on the creek.

PF Résolu Canada Inc., also known as Resolute Forest Products (RFP), is a global leader in the forest products industry with a diverse range of products, including market pulp, tissue, wood products, newsprint and specialty papers, which are marketed in over 70 countries.

The company owns or operates some 40 manufacturing facilities, as well as power generation assets, in the United States and Canada.

Resolute has third-party certified 100% of its managed woodlands to internationally recognized sustainable forest management standards.  Resolute has received regional, North American and global recognition for its leadership in corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, as well as for its business practices.

On the environmental management section of the company website, RFP states that in 2016, t 29 environmental incidents were recorded across the company.  The company states that it will continue to work toward a long-term goal of zero incidents. The 2017 target the company set for itself is 38 incidents or less.

In its financial statements, the company is required to record accidental releases of hazardous substances significant enough to risk damage to human and environmental health, or that have potential liability and reputational consequences. Between 2012 and 2016, Resolute recorded no such incidents. The company is also required to disclose in our published financial statements any fines of material significance for non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations, none of which were reported between 2012 and 2016.

The Baie-Comeau facility produces newsprint at a capacity of 319,000 tonnes per year.  There are 216 employees at the facility.