Most of the environmental issues that we routinely address in the regulated community are not going to make the evening news. They are just not newsworthy. However, when those issues reach the point of violations/enforcement, or when there is distrust regarding the proposed activity, there is plenty of press. From a “risk communication” standpoint, these prickly issues fall into consensus and crises communication.
Release Leads to Fish Kill
The fire and subsequent environmental impact at the Jim Beam warehouse in Kentucky that lead to a fish kill made headlines in the US and elsewhere. Not gaining as many headlines was a release of ammonia in British Columbia that violated the Fisheries Act. This release is suspected of killing approximately 70 fish in Booming Ground Creek. CIMCO and the University were completing refrigeration repairs when the incident occurred.
According to reports, CIMCO Refrigeration was fined $800,000.00 after pleading guilty to depositing or permitting the deposit of a “deleterious substance” into an area that may enter water frequented by fish. Additionally, the University of British Columbia was fined $1.2 million after being found guilty of the following offences:
- Depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek).
- Depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into places that may enter waters frequented by fish (in this case, a storm sewer and a ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek).
- Failing to report the incident in a timely manner.
The University has filed an appeal.
Earlier this spring, we reported about another release of Ammonia that cost Air Liquide Canada more than $100,000.00. So, make sure you are managing your ammonia storage and use with care.
Dry Cleaner Fined… and More
Back in the news are fines at dry cleaners. In this case, the owner of a dry cleaner in Laval, Quebec, was sentenced and ordered to pay $77,000.00 as he pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order issued by an enforcement officer under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
In addition to the fine, there were some unusual conditions in the settlement, including a requirement to publish an article within six months after the judgment on the facts relating to the offence in Fabricare Canada magazine and provide proof of publication to Environment and Climate Change Canada. This magazine must then be displayed in the window of his business for a period of 12 months following publication.
Distrust Regarding Plans for Excess Soils
Finally, Port Colborne residents gathered to express their concern about plans to fill a former quarry with inert fill.
Reports say that “Local activist David Henderson has been leading the charge against the permit to dump at the quarry. He encouraged everyone at the rally to also head to city hall when the permit comes back for approval.”
“The major threat is to the aquifer which lies under the (quarry) and feeds wells in Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Fort Erie. We do not object to the filling of (the pit) however, based on our research with municipalities in the north east of the GTA, we would like to learn from their experiences and prevent these problems from occurring in Niagara.”
The owner of Port Colborne Quarries is speaking out saying people are being emotional, not logical. Tom Rankin, the owner of Rankin Construction, which owns the quarries on Highway 140, says local residents should not be worried about a proposed plan for one of the quarries.
This is part of the challenge in communicating risk – determining stakeholder perceptions and trying to build consensus. It’s not an easy task.
The issue of what to do with excess soils has been the focus of legislation in Ontario (see: Excess Soils in Ontario: What you Need to Know). Past episodes of poorly managed excess soils negatively impacting farm fields have likely increased concern about soil management.
Proactive Environmental Management
Environmental management, staying on top of permitting requirements, and communicating risks to stakeholders, including employees, is a significant commitment. But if you are able to effectively juggle these commitments, you will likely be in a better position if and when an issue arises.
If you would like to meet to discuss your environmental programs and how you can take proactive steps to avoid some of these prickly issues, call me and we can set up a time to meet at your convenience. You can reach me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 114
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