Algoma Steel Inc., located in Sault Ste. Marie, was recently convicted of contravening the Ontario Water Resources Act for discharging or causing or permitting the discharge of material into the St. Mary’s River, which may have impaired the quality of the water. The conviction is the result of an incident that occured on October 18th, 2019.

Algoma Steel Inc. was convicted of one violation under the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA), fined $150,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $31,250, and given 60 days to pay.

Background to the Incident

Algoma Steel Inc. owns and operates a steel manufacturing facility located on West Street in Sault Ste. Marie. At the site, the company produces raw materials required in the manufacturing of steel, including coke, iron, and lime.

On October 18, 2019, condensate from a ruptured steam pipe infiltrated an electrical room in the coke making area on-site and triggering a power outage. The company reported the power loss to the ministry’s Spills Action Centre (SAC) on the morning of October 18, 2019, and provided updates regarding the power outage to local ministry officers. As a result of the power outage, equipment and pumps were no longer operational and raw materials including tar spilled onto the ground and flowed into a drain that connected to sewage works that linked to the main water filtration plant that discharges effluent into the St. Mary’s River.

Upon discovering that spilled material had entered the drain, the company began berming the drain and re-contacted SAC to report the spill. A chemical analysis of the discharged effluent showed that it surpassed the permissible limits for phenol, cyanide, and ammonia. Further, a grab sample of effluent taken on October 18, 2019, failed an aquatic toxicity test.

Given the dilution of discharge into the St. Mary’s River, which is a large body of water, it is uncertain whether any species were harmed. No dead fish were observed, nor any other adverse effects.

The ministry’s Environmental Investigations and Enforcement Branch investigated and laid charges which resulted in the conviction.

The company is currently refurbishing a two-million-gallon tank in effort to reduce the risk of future spills. Further, the company has since replaced one of its storage tanks which will enhance their ability to effectively store large quantities of raw liquor.