A Challenging and Consequential Environmental Regulatory Environment

Posted by on Aug 23, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

Environmental regulatory and non-regulatory pressures continue to grow.  This includes amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the pending regulations governing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and developing reporting requirements under Environmental Social and Governance.

This is in addition to the existing federal and provincial environmental regulations, which as we witnessed with the Ontario Excess Soil regulations can quickly change.

We are also seeing larger and more encompassing environmental fines that can include prison time for C-Suite Executives.  We look at this and other enforcement actions below.

CEO Guilty of Environmental Violations

In a July 2023 court ruling, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a defunct mine (Banks Island Gold – BIG) was found guilty of environmental violations.  According to reports, the court ruling found that former CEO Benjamin Mossman was “actively or passively involved” in the Yellow Giant mine exceeding permitted amounts of zinc and total suspended solids on multiple occasions, polluting fresh water lakes and creeks in and around the exploration sites.

According to the court documents, there are four categories of alleged offences:

  1. Failing to report environmental spills and dumping (Counts 1, 17, 22, and 23).
  2. Discharging mine waste into the environment (Counts 16 and 29).
  3. Unauthorized works in and about a stream (Counts 25 through 28).
  4. Discharging substances above permitted amounts (Counts 2 through 10 and 18 through 21).
Picture of a CEO

The court documents state, “As President, Chief Executive Officer and mine manager, he failed to meet his duties…” (Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash).

“Failed to Meet his Duties”

The court documents state, “As President, Chief Executive Officer and mine manager, he failed to meet his duties concerning Counts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 18, 19, 20 and 21.  He acquiesced to BIG’s failure to report as required.  There is no evidence of due diligence on Mossman’s or BIG’s part.”

The CBC reported that the violations could result in fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars or imprisonment.

City of Hamilton Fine Approaches $3 Million

The City of Hamilton entered a guilty plea in the Ontario Court of Justice related to the Chedoke Creek spill charges laid by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) in 2020 and received a fine of $2.1 million.  Additionally, they will pay $364,500 to the Royal Botanical Gardens and a $525,000 victim fine surcharge.

According to a CBC report, “A valve in the city’s combined sewer overflow system was left open between 2014 and 2018, causing a layer of biohazardous sediment to settle at the bottom of Chedoke Creek.  Chedoke Creek flows into Cootes Paradise and into Hamilton Harbour.”

The ongoing issue (estimated at 24 billion litres of combined sewer overflow) resulted in E. coli exceedances and following sampling by Hamilton Public Health Services they declared the water in the Creek a health hazard.

How this years-long release occurred without being detected is unknown.  Carlyle Kahn the General Manager of the Public Works Department said, “We apologize to the community, our partners and members of council for the way the situation was handled and for the resulting environmental impact.”

MECP spokesperson Gary Wheeler said in an email it is the “largest fine for a single offence under the Ontario Water Resources Act.”

$1.1 Million Fine

As reported by the Government of Canada, Peace River Hydro Partners pleaded guilty in the Provincial Court of British Columbia to one charge of depositing a deleterious substance into a water frequented by fish.  This was a contravention of the Fisheries Act.

According to their website, “Peace River Partner (PRHP) is a partnership between ACCIONA Infrastructure Canada Inc. and Samsung C&T Canada Ltd.  PRHP holds the main civil works contract for the Site C Clean Energy Project.”  Site C was the focus of the environmental enforcement.

The site is near Fort St. John, British Columbia.

The charges are from an investigation by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) enforcement officers into the discharge of 3,300 cubic metres of impacted water into the Peace River on September 9 and 10, 2018.

The investigation by ECCC determined that during a high rainfall event, the water management infrastructure at the Site C Clean Energy Project had insufficient available capacity to treat the additional drainage.  As a result, a mixture of treated and untreated drainage was released into the Peace River.  The water had a low pH and elevated concentration of aluminum.

As a result of this conviction, Peace River Hydro Partners will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Violations of federal and provincial environmental laws are increasingly consequential.  As regulations continue to develop and evolve, they will likely pose a greater challenge to the regulated community.

If you need assistance with an environmental issue you may be facing, contact Christopher Pare’, P.Geo. Q.P. at 519-948-7300, Ext. 114.

Dragun Corporation does not use artificial intelligence in drafting our blogs or any other material.

This blog was drafted by Alan Hahn.  Alan has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and completed a graduate program in Environmental Management.  He has worked in environmental management for 45 years.  He has written hundreds of blogs and articles.  His published work includes HazMat Magazine, BizX Magazine, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, GreenStone Partners, Manure Manager Magazine, and Progressive Dairy.

This blog was reviewed by Christopher Paré, P.Geo.  Chris is a senior geoscientist and manager of Dragun’s Windsor, Ontario, office.  Chris has more than 30 years of experience on projects ranging from environmental site assessments (Phase One/Two ESA), excess soils, remedial investigations, soil and groundwater remediation, Permits to Take Water, Records of Site Conditions, vapour intrusion, and site decommissioning.  Chris is a frequent speaker, author, and expert witness.  See Chris’ bio.

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