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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.

 

Alberta Coal mine fined $1 million for Fisheries Act Violations

Sherritt International Corporation (Sherritt) recently pleaded guilty in the Provincial Court of Alberta to three counts of contravening the Canadian Fisheries Act.  Sherritt was sentenced to pay $1,050,000.  As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

The Coal Valley Mine, which was owned by Sherritt, from 2001 to 2014, is an open-pit coal mine located 90 km south of Edson, Alberta.  The Coal Valley Mine is a 20,660 Ha. surface mine. The mine operates both truck/shovel and dragline pits and utilizes a dragline for coal removal. The area has a long history of mining and the Coal Valley Mine was opened in 1978 to supply coal to Ontario Hydro and for overseas export.

Coal is uncovered at the mine using the two draglines  and two truck/shovel fleets. The exposed coal is hauled from the mine to the heavy media wash plant where the waste is removed and then loaded on trains to be shipped to the ports. Current annual production of the mine is 3.0 million tonnes and the plant has capacity to operate at 4.0 million tonnes per year.

On August 3rd, 2012, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) enforcement officers visited the mine in response to a spill report, and they determined that effluent being deposited from a waste-water pond was deleterious to fish. ECCC enforcement officers subsequently issued a direction under the Fisheries Act, which resulted in the deposit being stopped.  Further investigation by ECCC determined that there were two previous releases of deleterious effluent from waste-water ponds, on July 27th, 2011.

The releases went into tributaries of the Athabasca River, including the Erith River portions, which are identified by the Government of Alberta as “ecologically significant habitat” for Athabasca rainbow trout, a species at risk.

The waste-water ponds at the Coal Valley Mine collected surface water that was treated with a chemical flocculant to remove suspended sediment before being discharged.  Both suspended sediment and an excess of flocculant can be toxic to fish.

Of the $1,050,000 fine, $990,000 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF).  The EDF was created in 1995 by the Government of Canada. The fund follows the polluter pays principle, and it ensures that court-awarded penalties are used for projects with positive environmental impacts.

Teck Coal Ltd. fined $1.4 million for Toxic Release

Teck Coal Limited recently pleaded guilty to three counts of contravening the Canadian Fisheries Act in the Provincial Court of British Columbia.   The court ordered the company to pay a penalty of $1,425,000, which will be directed to the federal Environmental Damages Fund, and used for purposes related to the conservation and protection of fish or fish habitat or the restoration of fish habitat in the East Kootenay region of B.C.  Additionally, Teck Resources will post information regarding this conviction on its website.  As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Teck Coal’s Line Creek Operations is located in southeastern British Columbia.  On October 17th, 2014, enforcement officers from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) launched an investigation following a report that fish had been found dead in ponds connected to Line Creek which runs adjacent to the coal mining operation.  During the investigation, ECCC enforcement officers found that the effluent from the water treatment facility going into Line Creek was deleterious to fish.  Numerous dead fish were found in the Line Creek watershed as a result of this discharge, including Bull trout.  Bull trout are identified as a species of special concern in this area of British Columbia.

The company has a permit to discharge treated effluent into the Line Creek, however in the fall of 2014, there was a malfunction of the treatment system.  As a result, toxic levels of nitrate, phosphorus, selenium and hydrogen sulfates entered the Line Creek, subsequently killing over 74 fish.

Line Creek is identified by the Government of British Columbia as part of a “Classified Water” system.  This provincial classification means that the water system is seen to have a high fisheries value and it requires special fishing licenses.

Teck’s West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility cost $120 million to construct.  The facility treats up to 7,500 m3 (2 million gallons) of water per day – enough to fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools.  Selenium concentrations are reduced by about 96% in treated water, to below 20 parts per billion.  Nitrate concentrations are reduced by over 99% in treated water, to below 3 parts per million.

Teck’s West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility

Teck’s Line Creek operation produces steelmaking coal – also called metallurgical coal or coking coal — which is used to make steel.  The processed coal is transported by sea to the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.  The current annual production capacities of the mine and preparation plant are approximately 3.5 and 3.5 million tonnes of clean coal, respectively. Proven and probable reserves at Line Creek are projected to support mining at planned production rates for a further 23 years.

Auto paint and Supply company fined for environmental violations

Fine Auto Paints and Supplies Ltd. of Toronto, Ontario, was fined recently $25,000, after pleading guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice last month to one count of contravening the Volatile Organic Compound Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

An investigation by Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) enforcement officers revealed that the company had sold automotive refinishing products that contained Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in excess of the allowable limit.

VOCs are primary precursors to the formation of ground level ozone and particulate matter which are the main ingredients of smog. Smog is known to have adverse effects on human health and the environment.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF).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.