The Professor of my graduate class in Principles of Pollution Control stated if we can eliminate preliminary events (e.g., long working hours, poor maintenance, etc.), initiating or triggering events never occur; nice concept, but not so easy to execute.
In an earlier blog, we said that, more often than not, human error (including communications) plays a key role in mishaps. These errors can be dangerous, costly, and can pose public relations challenges to the companies when the violation occurs.
While we don’t have any unique insight with respect to the preliminary events in the instances below, we suspect human error and communications played a role.
Another Seven-Figure Fine for Rail Company
Canadian National Railway (CN), as we mentioned previously in a blog, had a renewable fuels violation and was fined more than two-million dollars. CN had discharged 90 litres of diesel fuel into Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River.
According to the Globe and Mail, “…CN must pay the provincial and federal penalties after pleading guilty to environmental offences on June 15 in an Edmonton court.”
The article also states that CN did not report the discharge until three months after the event occurred.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said that the source of the spill was traced through the city’s storm drain system to an engine-fuelling station at CN’s Bissell Yard.
Court documents identify the events leading to the release. Among the factors was an employee who had improperly installed filters on an oil-water separator. Further, though genuine efforts were made to remedy the situation, it was not clear who was responsible to make sure the separator was functioning properly.
PCB Violation and Fine
A jail sentence and a six-figure fine were handed out for violation of the PCB regulations.
The press release from the ECCC states, “On August 21, 2018, Collingwood Prime Realty Holdings Corp. and its director, Mr. Issa El-Hinn, were sentenced in the Ontario Court of Justice for offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, related to contraventions of the PCB Regulations. The court sentenced Mr. El-Hinn to a 45-day jail term, which will be served on weekends, for failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order. The Court also sentenced the corporation and Mr. El-Hinn to pay a combined penalty of $420,000 to be directed to the federal Environmental Damages Fund.”
The ECCC noted that, “…two electrical transformers and eight electrical capacitors contained higher-than-allowable PCB levels and that the equipment had not been sent for destruction to an authorized facility.”
As a result of the violation, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.
PCB Violation Part Two
Finally, this case has elements of the two violations mentioned above – late reporting of an oil spill containing PCBs.
In August, the Provincial Court of Alberta ordered FortisAlberta to pay $300,000 for failing to report an oil spill.
According to a blog entry by Siskinds Law Firm, “The spill on October 19, 2015 in Hinton, Alberta resulted in approximately 325 litres of oil leaking from a transformer onto a concrete pad and into a crack that went down to a depth of five feet. FortisAlberta remediated the spill, but waited approximately seven months to report the leak. The investigation into the leak revealed the presence of PCBs” (emphasis added).
Managing the preliminary and initiating events is a significant challenge. This challenge includes awareness, training, communications, and ongoing monitoring; you are never “done.”
If you need assistance with an environmental matter, or if you have already had an “event” that needs to be addressed, we can help. Call us at 519.979.7300 if you have any questions.