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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 Charges laid against the city will be withdrawn once all measures outlined in the diversion agreement have been met, as determined by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.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Lakes agreed to donate $75,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) on condition that the charges laid by ECCC be withdrawn.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.

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.