The law of unintended consequences says actions of people, and especially of government, always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. This may aptly describe the first of two recent environmental-related news stories below.
These unintended consequences can, at times, be avoided, or at least limited, by careful planning and by full consideration in the multitude of counsel. At a minimum, we are reminded to thoroughly consider that next project before moving forward.
Green Energy Blamed for Black Water
It appears that the case against the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), along with three wind companies, Engie Canada, Pattern Energy Group, and Samsung Renewable Energy, is going to move forward.
As reported on CBC, “The Ontario Court of Justice has determined there are ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ to believe environmental offences have been committed by Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, ministry staff and three industrial wind companies in Chatham-Kent.”
It is alleged that the construction (and operation) of the East Lake St. Clair Wind Farm has impacted groundwater quality at homes and farms by disturbing the wells/aquifer conditions. Black shale underlies the wind turbines in East Lake St Clair.
Christine Burke, a fourth-generation farmer in the area, has water samples she collected that appear black. Ms. Burke said they have had “crystal clear, pristine water for decades.” She also said that since the construction of the wind farm, they can no longer use the water.
Ms. Burke said, “We have nothing against the green energy…we welcomed it, but not at the cost of my drinking water.”
A University of Windsor professor, Dr. Joel Gagnon, who is looking into the matter, said, “Our role here is to try to do good science and to come in with a fresh set of eyes and as much objectivity as we can bring to look at these challenges.”
Township Pleads Guilty
The court case against the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, as well as a former manager of wastewater operations, ended with a guilty plea. At issue was a violation of the conditions of the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) for its wastewater treatment plant.
In December 2018, charges were laid with respect to (1) improper sampling of the effluent, (2) failure to maintain the plant to a standard that would prevent ammonia nitrogen from exceeding the allowable discharge limits, and (3) failure to report the error to the MECP within seven days.
According to reports, ammonia nitrogen levels were found to exceed 2.5 milligrams per litre.
An article in Barrie Today reported that both the town and former wastewater manager each initially faced three charges in the case. However, all charges against the manager were dropped after the town pleaded guilty to a single charge.
The town was fined $65,000.
Limiting Your Exposure to Environmental Liability
Fines, penalties, and environmental problems, big and small, can often be avoided, or at least limited, by wise counsel (legal and technical). As the ancient Proverb says, “In the multitude of counselors, there is safety.”
One of the purposes of Dragun’s blogs and compliance tips is to share our technical knowledge and insights to help you limit your environmental liability exposure.
If this is the type of support you want in an environmental consultant but perhaps are not currently experiencing, we would be happy to have an introductory meeting. Contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 114, if you would like to have a discussion or meeting about how we can support you.