Fines for Spills to the Environment

Posted by on Jan 10, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

As 2022 came to a close, the Government of Canada announced a seven-figure fine for a company that had releases that resulted in fish kills.

Release to the Environment

Michels Canada Company, among other services, relines deteriorating sewer and water mains and builds tunnels for wastewater treatment plants.

According to a news release from Environment and Climate Change Canada, drilling fluid and “sediment-laden waters” were released on two different occasions from horizontal-drilling operations.  Both incidents occurred in British Columbia.

As is typical when fines and penalties are announced, both of these incidents occurred several years ago.  However, in this instance, the company was not informed for nearly five years that the Government was considering a citation.

Horizontal Drilling

Horizontal drilling operations resulted in sediment being released to local creek (Image purchased from Shutterstock).

Company’s Reply to Incident

From ENR, “A Michels Canada spokesman said ‘after the incident and the investigation, Michels Canada was not informed that the [government] was contemplating a citation until March 30, 2022.’ It received a notice of violation in August, he said, with the fine ‘the result of a joint submission’ to the court by the firm and government.”

From Environment and Climate Change Canada:

  • On August 22, 2017, Michels Canada Co. was the head contractor responsible for horizontal directional boring operations in Coquitlam when drilling fluid and sediment-laden waters were released through the storm sewer system into Cape Horn Creek. Twenty dead fish were found in the creek following the release.
  • On September 2, 2017, the company was carrying out horizontal directional boring operations in Surrey when there was a release through the storm sewer system of drilling fluid and sediment-laden waters into Quibble Creek. Following the release, 533 dead fish were found in this creek.

The end result was a $2.8 million fine under the Fisheries Act, and the company’s name was added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Manure Spill Results in Fine

Also announced in December was a fine under the Ontario Water Resources Act and Nutrient Management Act.  A company registered as 1013022 Ontario Inc. was fined $31,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $7,750.

The violation in this instance occurred in December of 2018.

According to the Court Bulletin from Ontario, the company operates a dairy farm.

The Bulletin also said that, on December 12, 2018, the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) received a report of slippery road conditions, potentially due to liquid manure being tracked onto Hines Road.  During the inspection, a “brown liquid” was flowing from a farm field to a culvert under Hines Road and entering a drainage ditch along the west side.  The material appeared to be a “mixture of melt water and manure.”

The MECP also noted that “…the field was saturated and that it appeared that the manure spreader may have travelled through a flow path in the field which leads to the Hines Rd. culvert without shutting off manure flow.”

Spills and other environmental incidents will never be “zero.”  But in general, there have been tremendous advancements in limiting and responding to these incidents. See our October 22, 2022, blog where we discuss these improvements.

If you need assistance with an environmental project, contact our office at 519-948-7300.

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), remedial investigations, soil and groundwater remediation, Permits to Take Water, Records of Site Conditions, excess soil management, vapour intrusion, and site decommissioning.  Chris is a frequent speaker, author, and expert witness.  See Chris’ bio

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