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Husky Oil fined $2.7 million for oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River

Husky Oil Operations Limited recently pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Canadian Fisheries Act and one count of violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 in a Saskatchewan court.

The company was ordered to pay a fine of $2.5 million for violating the Fisheries Act and a fine of $200,000 for violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. The fines will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will be used to support projects within the North Saskatchewan and/or Saskatchewan River and their associated watersheds related to the conservation and protection of fish and migratory birds.  

The charges related to an incident that occurred between July 20 and 21, 2016, when an estimated 225,000 litres of blended heavy crude oil leaked from a Husky Oil Operations Limited pipeline. Approximately 90,000 litres of the oil entered the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The oil was found to be deleterious, or harmful, to fish and migratory birds.   

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Environmental Emergencies Centre (NEEC) responded to the July 2016 spill. Environmental emergency officers were onsite from July 22, 2016 until early October 2016 to provide regulatory oversight and guide efforts to protect the environment. A year after the spill, in 2017, and once again in 2018, NEEC’s Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team returned to the North Saskatchewan River to assess the water and shorelines following the spring ice breakup.

Clean-up Activities of the North Saskatchewan River

The spill resulted in a number of communities having to stop taking water from the North Saskatchewan River for drinking water purposes. The cities had to shut off their intakes and find alternate water sources after the oil plume from a Husky Energy pipeline spill moved downstream. The cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert, and Melfort were ordered by Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency to stop taking water from the river.

In addition to pleading guilty to offences under federal legislation, Husky Oil Operations Limited has pleaded guilty to one count under the provincial Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010

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.

Solvent Spill from Transport Truck results in $100,000 fine

Penner International Inc., headquartered in Manitoba, was recently convicted on one charge on the Ontario Environmental Protection Act as a result of a spill of solvent from one its transport trucks in 2017. The company was fined $100,000 plus a victim surcharge of $25,000.

The driver of the vehicle involved in the solvent spill was also personally charged and convicted. He was fined $35,000 plus a victim surcharge of $8,750. He was given 12 months to pay the fine.

In spill occurred on July 20, 2017 in the Town of Gwillimbury, approximately a 1-hour drive of Toronto. A Penner tractor-trailer driven a by independent contractor was heading north on Highway 400 when it rear-ended a pick-up truck that swerved in front of it, ultimately leading to a spill of solvent VORTEX WPM onto the highway.

The VORTEX PM had been picked up by the driver earlier in the day from a Mississauga, Ontario distribution company and loaded onto the trailer. The load consisted of twelve stainless steel 1500-kilogram. The distribution company did not secure them to the trailer.  The driver did not inquire as to whether the totes were secured or not before he closed the doors to the trailer and drove off.

During transport and at the time of the rear-ending incident, as the totes were not properly secured, they shifted and the valves on two of the totes were knocked open. Solvent spilled from the trailer onto the highway and some also ran down gradient onto the soil of an adjacent construction site.

A one-kilometre evacuation zone was also established around the spill site. The closure remained in force for 10.5 hours, and the construction site’s operations were affected for a few days.

Hundreds of motorists were trapped on Highway 400, where the spill occurred, for up to five hours before they could be re-routed to ancillary roads.

VORTEX WPM is an organic solvent that is flammable. To clean up a large spill of VORTEC WPM, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for VORTEX WPM states: “Eliminate all ignition sources. Persons not wearing protective equipment should be excluded from area of spill until clean up has been completed. Stop spill at source. Prevent from entering drains, sewers, streams, etc. If runoff occurs, notify authorities as required. Pump or vacuum transfer spilled product to clean containers for recovery. Transfer contaminated absorbent, soil and other materials to containers for disposal.”

Penner International Ltd. was founded in 1923 and specialized in truckload dry van, international, and Canadian transport.

Dredging Company fined $350,000 for depositing damaging substance into Fraser River

Company fined $350,000 for depositing damaging substance in Fraser River

Fraser River Pile and Dredge (GP) Inc. recently pleaded guilty to the Fisheries Act violation in British Columbia provincial court. The court fined the company $350,000. The fine was a result of one of the company’s dredging causing the depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish – the Fraser River.

The conviction stems from an incident that occurred on the Fraser River in February 2014. During that time, the company was dredging in Deas Slough in the Fraser River when its vessel punctured a submerged water main carrying chlorinated water to the City of Delta. Enforcement officers from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) investigated the incident and determined that chlorinated water was released through the pipe into the waterway.

ECCC charged the company with the Fisheries Act violation as Deas Slough is an important fish-bearing body of water and the concentration of chlorine that was released was damaging to fish.

FRPD Equipment in Operation (Source: FRPD)

Fraser River Pile & Dredge (GP) Inc. (FRPD) is Canada’s largest Marine & Infrastructure, Land Foundations and Dredging contractor.  FRPD’s fleet includes cutter suction and trailing suction hopper dredges, spud barges, cranes, dump scows, and flat scows. The company performs all types and sizes of marine & infrastructure, environmental remediation, dredging and land foundations projects.

The $350,000 collected from the company by the government will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. Also, the company’s name will be added to an Candian environmental offenders registry.

Ontario: Fertilizer Producer fined $90,000 for Ammonia Spill

Terra International (Canada) Inc., was recently was convicted of one offence under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and was fined $90,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $22,500. The conviction stems from an incident that occurred on August 11, 2016 when the company reported an ammonia gas release to the Ontario Environment Ministry’s Spills Action Centre. It was subsequently determined that approximately 8.57 tonnes of liquid ammonia was released and contained, which resulted in a release of 997 kilograms of ammonia gas to the air over a two-hour period.

The ammonia release resulted in various adverse effects including the closure of nearby roads for approximately one hour. In addition, two reports were received alleging odours, with one of those alleging irritation; a third report alleged irritation, nausea and difficulty breathing; and employees at one neighbouring company reported evacuating for approximately two hours.

Upon discovery of the ammonia gas release, personnel from Terra conducted a root cause analysis which concluded that a previously unknown mechanical deficiency in an ammonia pump resulted in the failure of a vent pipe containing liquid ammonia.

Terra International (Canada) Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of CF Industries and operates a facility in St. Clair Township, Ontario (30 km south of Sarnia, Ontario) where it produces ammonia and urea products. To produces up to 1.0 million tons of nitrogen products for agricultural and industrial use each year. Approximately 200 people work at the facility.

City of Kawartha Lakes fined $75K for alleged violations under Fisheries Act

On January 31, 2019, the Corporation of the City of Kawartha Lakes entered into a diversion agreement with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada after Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) laid charges under the Fisheries Act. The agreement requires the city to pay $75,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund; update their standard operating procedures for drain works; and publish a notice of the incident on the city’s website. Charges laid against the city will be withdrawn once all measures outlined in the diversion agreement have been met, as determined by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

The City of Kawathra Lakes in Ontario, approximately 70 kilometres northeast of Toronto. Kawartha Lakes is the size of a typical Ontario county and is mostly rural. It is the second largest single-tier municipality in Ontario by land area.

In August 2014, a city-hired contractor carried out maintenance work on the a drainage works. The work resulted in a sediment release into the fish-bearing waterway. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers investigated the incident and determined that the sediment concentrations released during the work were deleterious to fish. It was also determined that the work was undertaken without taking adequate steps to mitigate the release of sediments into the waterway.

Maintenance is performed on drainage works to prevent flooding

Kawartha Lakes communications manager Cheri Davidson told MyKawthra.com that there was concern that the method used to dismantle the blockage resulted in silt and sediment being released into that drain when one of the city’s silt controls failed, which in turn resulted in the death of fish. 

The City of Kawartha Lakes agreed to donate $75,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) on condition that the charges laid by ECCC be withdrawn.

Kawartha Lakes has made changes to the way it looks after drains to reduce the possibility for sediment to escape into the surrounding environment. The municipality has also funded Kawartha Conservation’s update to the drain maintenance classification. 

Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Fund follows the polluter pays principle and ensures that court-awarded penalties are used for projects with positive environmental impacts.

The $75,000 donation from the City of Kawathra Lakes to Environmental Damages Fund will be available for the next five years to support projects within the municipality that focus on environmental restoration, environmental quality improvement, research and development, or education. To apply for funding, see:  https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-funding/damages-fund.html

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.