The Provincial Court of British Columbia recently ordered Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd. to pay $700,000 after the company plead guilty to one charge laid under the federal Fisheries Act. The company was also ordered to pay $55,000 after pleading guilty to two charges laid under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. The charges stemmed from offences related to transporting and discharging ammonia into a body of water that flows into fish-bearing water. The company was also ordered to pay $8,477.43 in restitution to the City of Richmond, representing the cost to the Richmond Fire Department’s response to the incident.
The conviction stems to an incident in November 2017, when Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers and Transport Canada inspectors initiated a joint investigation after an individual called for emergency medical assistance after inhaling ammonia gas at Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd.’s warehouse.
The investigation revealed that in October 2017, a large quantity of contaminated ammonia was removed from a fishing vessel in Richmond, British Columbia, during maintenance of the refrigeration system. The ammonia was transferred into a high-pressure storage tank on shore. Sometime between November 1 and 23, 2017, the storage tank, containing the contaminated ammonia, was collected and transported by truck to Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd.’s warehouse by a company employee. This was done at the direction of one of the company’s owners.
On the morning of November 24, 2017, a garbage disposal company employee arrived at the warehouse to collect garbage and became ill from the strong smell of ammonia. His call for help led local authorities to the storage tank’s location—it was in the back of the truck and was releasing ammonia into a fish tote of water. The contaminated water was overflowing into a storm drain, which flows into Bath Slough and discharges into the fish-bearing Fraser River. This was a violation of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act.
The investigation also revealed that, contrary to sections 5(a) and 5(d) of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, the contaminated ammonia storage tank was not built to the required specifications for the transport of dangerous goods. The tank also did not have any shipping documents or safety marks as required under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations. The driver did not have a Transportation of Dangerous Goods Training Certificate. No individuals involved had the required training in the handling, transportation, and storage of ammonia.
Experts estimate that approximately 1,227 lbs of ammonia was released into the environment, with approximately 929 lbs of which was released into the storm sewer, and the remainder vaporizing into the air.
As a result of this conviction, the name of the company will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.
$700,000 of the fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will be used to support projects that have a positive impact on Canada’s natural environment.