Illegal dumping results in $190k remediation in Grande Prairie, Alberta

In May of last year, there was an incident in which hydrocarbon was illegally disposed into a curbside drain that contaminated a popular fishing pond in the County of Grande Prairie, Alberta.  The pond was closed for two months during the clean-up and remediation.  The final bill for the clean-up and remediation was recently tallied at $184,125.

Investigators from Alberta Environment Parks and Recreation (AEP) estimated that approximately five cubic metres (1,320 U.S. gallons) were released into the pond.  Although a determination was made that the release of hydrocarbons was intentional, fines have not been laid and AEP has closed the file.

After the initial response to contain the oil waste and prevent further contamination, the County’s environmental consultants conducted extensive remediation work along the shoreline, including removal of approximately two-thirds of the cattails surrounding the pond.

“The County along with Alberta Environment have been monitoring the wildlife in the area since the incident occurred and there is no known impact to the health of animal or aquatic life,” said Christine Rawlins, parks and recreation manager. “Out of an abundance of caution, however, we will continue to operate the pond on a catch and release basis only.”

In response to the incident, the County has reviewed its own internal processes for environmental emergency response and have made updates to the health and safety management system. Action steps include updating the Standard Operating Procedure, coordinating response through the Incident Command System, and ensuring an up-to-date list of qualified environmental contractors who can respond to similar events. The key is prompt detection and notification that leads to a quick response when these types of events occur.

“We are grateful to the member of the public who reported the sheen in the pond, which alerted us to the fact that there was an illegal dumping of hydrocarbon into a nearby drain,” said Daniel Lemieux, Director of Community Services for the County of Grande Prairie. “Vigilance is an important part of our early detection and mitigation strategy, so we ask that the public contact the Alberta Environment’s 24-hour Emergency Response Line at 1-800-222-6514 or Alberta Environmental and Dangerous Goods Emergencies at 1-800-272-9600 immediately if they see anything unusual, including someone dumping materials into the drains. This incident was costly to the County, the community, and the environment and was entirely preventable.”