Former U.S. President, William Jefferson Clinton, famously coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” This phrase has been modified numerous times over the years, including “It’s the ecology, stupid” (Journal, Nature). The general premise of this phrase is focus on the fundamentals. With numerous issues involving water quality in Canada, as well as globally, it may be more appropriate to say that our (environmental) focus should be more narrow – our water.
In fact, impacts to surface water continue to be a significant concern in Canada. Recent enforcement action, as well as a report from the (Ontario) Environmental Commissioner’s office, highlight some of these water concerns.
Releases to Water and Fines
According to the official release from the Canadian Government, “Irving Pulp & Paper Limited was sentenced in the New Brunswick Provincial Court in Saint John and ordered to pay a $3.5 million penalty in connection with three offences under the pollution prevention provisions of the federal Fisheries Act. The company pleaded guilty on October 9, 2018.”
The fine is related to several incidents between June 2014 and August 2016 when improper effluent releases impacted the Saint John River.
The fine against Irving Pulp & Paper is one of the largest environmental penalties levied in Canada and will result in the company being listed on the Environmental Offenders Registry.
According to the press release, the company has already submitted their five-year plan to address the effluent upgrades.
Release to Oceans
In the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Notre Dame, Seafoods Inc. was ordered to pay $115,000 for contravening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
The official news release stated that “Notre Dame Seafoods, pleaded guilty to one count of violating paragraph 124(1) (b) of the Act (disposal at sea provisions). The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. As in the above case, Notre Dame’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry as a result of this conviction.”
Releases to Water from Municipalities
The above environmental violations involving our waters were on the heels of other reports regarding municipal discharges to waterways.
As reported in the Timmins Daily Press, “Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner (ECO) is not holding back on her criticism of the City of Timmins for allowing continuous discharge of raw sewage water into Porcupine Lake and the failure of the Ministry of the Environment to do anything about it.”
Environmental Commissioner for Ontario
Dianne Saxe (ECO), whose office is slated for closure on May 1, 2019, released an Environmental Protection Report outlining problems with pollution in lakes and rivers all across Ontario, including Porcupine Lake.
It was revealed that an application was filed under the Environmental Bill of Rights in 2017 alleging that the City of Timmins allowed the discharge of sewage into the lake as set out in an order by a provincial officer issued through the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
The ECO Report from Ms. Saxe includes the following, “Despite decades of work to reduce the environmental hazards of combined sewers, in 2017-2018 Ontario had 766 combined sewage overflows. An additional 561 overflows and bypasses occurred due to situations outside normal operating conditions at sewage treatment plants including emergency situations and/ or unscheduled shutdowns of treatment units causing other units to operate above design capacity”
The report goes on to criticize the lack of progress in addressing outdated infrastructure. “Over 30 years after banning new combined sewers, the government has still not required municipalities to take all practicable steps to stop these overflows.”
Protecting our water is among the most basic and essential need for effective environmental protection. Based on recent reports, we have some work to do in protecting our waters
As you make your environmental permitting/assessment/remediation plans for 2019 and beyond, we can help. If you have questions or need assistance, contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 114.