Companies Make Voluntary Payment of $150,000 to Environmental Damages Fund

With its remote location and lack of infrastructure, mining in Nunavut can be difficult.  But with a diverse mineralogy that includes gold, silver, diamonds, lead, zinc, uranium, tungsten, rare earths, cobalt, bismuth, nickel, and copper, there are companies that are more than willing to spend the time, money, and effort to travel to such remote locations.  Environment Canada is also willing to travel to these remote locations.

On July 14, 2011, Environment Canada enforcement officers inspected an Orbit Garant Drilling Inc. drill rig located on the Hope Bay Mining Boston Camp property, near Iqaluktuuttiaq. The rig was in close proximity to a river.  The inspection revealed an “ongoing release of drill cuttings, drill mud and brine.”  Sample analysis and an expert report concluded that the material could be deleterious to fish.  There was no evidence of any permanent harm done to any fish.

The results of the 2011 inspection and investigation were recently concluded, and according to a June 11, 2014, press release by Environment Canada, “Hope Bay Mining Ltd. and Orbit Garant Drilling Inc. have entered into a diversion agreement with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada following an Environment Canada investigation of alleged violations under the Fisheries Act.  The companies have each agreed to pay $75,000 for a total voluntary payment of $150,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund. The payment will be directed towards projects in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.”

As we have observed recently, environmental enforcement isn’t just focused on discharges from typical “smoke stack” companies.  We’ve seen enforcement for water discharge from hog farms, rock discharges from blasting, and no discharge from a dry cleaner.  All of this points to the need to have an excellent environmental advisory team (legal and technical) to keep you informed and “ahead of the enforcement curve.”

If you have questions about environmental compliance issues, contact Christopher Paré, P. Geo (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300, ext 114, or Andrew Tymec, P. Eng (atymec@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300, ext 118.

Environmental Issues In Alberta

The cleanup of last year’s release of 7,400 barrels of oil in the Primrose oil fields (Alberta) has already cost Canadian Natural Resources $60 million.  But, according to an article in the New York Times, the real potential cost may yet be looming in the form of decreased production.

The environmental issue at hand, is whether the high-pressure steam process used (referred to as “huff and puff”) to release the subsurface bitumen, fractured the “caprock” or if the release is the result of a malfunction.  Environmental groups believe it was the former of the two while Steve Laut, president of Canadian Natural Resources said that this scenario is highly improbable.

The investigation of the cause of the release has energy and investment experts watching the Primrose developments carefully.  Depending on the findings and regulatory response, it could slow oil sands production in other areas of Alberta.  Morningstar oil equity analyst David McColl said, “The implications of caprock integrity is an unknown that could have significant implications for the small producers and beyond that for the larger producers as well.”

All eyes will be on the Alberta Energy Regulator who is “authorized to make decisions on applications for energy development, monitoring for compliance assurance, decommissioning of developments, and all other aspects of energy resource activities.”  Determining the facts from this incident may prove to be relatively minor when compared to actually communicating those findings to the various stakeholders.

Whether it is a release to the environment, a question of compliance, or an enforcement action – they all point to the need for a sound environmental communication policy.  Of course, as all environmental professionals know and understand; remaining proactive on all environmental issues is the best policy.

If you would like to read this New York Times article, click here.

If you have questions about environmental compliance, assessments or remediation, or litigation support, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300 ext. 114.

 

 

 

Early Canadian Environmental Pioneer Discusses his Former Organization

Environmental professionals in Canada are likely more focused on immediate issues such as finding more effective ways to remediate TCE or gasoline in groundwater, conducting a Phase one or Phase two assessment, or completing a Toxic Substance Reduction Plan.  But long before many of the current environmental policies and initiatives, Dr. Patrick Moore an early Canadian environmental pioneer, helped focus the nation and the world on environmental and humanitarian issues.

As you may be aware, Dr. Moore, the founder of Greenpeace, parted ways with the organization in 1986.  Why he left the group, he once was so passionate about, was the focus of a recent interview in the on line British publication, Spiked.

Dr. Moore was bluntly asked why he “fights” the group he founded in 1972.  He said, “Greenpeace was not just about the environment, but also about the people.  Dr. Moore went on to say that “Greenpeace now characterizes people as enemies of the earth.”   But, it was when Greenpeace “came up with the crazy idea of banning chlorine worldwide” he realized he could no longer support Greenpeace.  Dr. Moore said to his former colleagues, “Dear God, guys, listen up! You cannot prohibit chemical elements.”

Dr. Moore goes on to say, “Greenpeace is against mining, not only certain kinds of mining, but any.”   As he later points out, “But how do we get cell phones and bicycles and rapid transit, buildings and windmills?”

One of Dr. Moore’s current campaigns is the use of Golden Rice, this puts him at direct odds with his former organization.  Golden Rice is a genetically modified version of rice designed by Ingo Potrykus to combat vitamin-A deficiency, which is responsible for the death of two million children every year.  Greenpeace, among others, has fought to keep Golden Rice from being used because it is a genetically modified plant.   Though invented 15 years ago, Golden Rice languishes because of opposition.  Dr. Moore said, “If vitamin-A deficiency were a disease such as malaria, and someone invented a drug that cured the disease, it would not take long before people would use it.”

Speaking about those regions stuck in the “drudgery” of subsistence farming, “grinding poverty” and an invariably short life span, Dr. Moore says, “The mechanisation of agriculture is the key to fighting poverty.  Modern agricultural methods also automatically lead to a decline in population growth.  People move to the city, women receive more education, emancipate themselves and do not spend their entire life barefoot and pregnant.”

The interview provides additional insight into Dr. Moore’s unabashed viewpoints; you can read the article here.

The global environmental issues that Dr. Moore and others are addressing are crucial, considering that basic nutritional needs are not being met for many.  However, we play a role locally as well.  For example, a manufacturing company in compliance not only protects the local environment, but it also helps maintain the local economy.  And a properly designed environmental remediation effort avoids waste, both in terms of money and energy.  While these are not likely to capture headlines or get us an interview in a magazine, they are reflective of the commonly used phrase – “Think globally, act locally.”

 

Environmental Fine at Hog Farm – A Trend of Enforcement?

According to an April 25th press release by the Ontario Government, “…two hog farming businesses and a Director pleaded guilty and were fined for discharging pig manure into the Thames River and Sweets Creek impairing the quality of water…the total fines for the offences were $120,000.”  The release goes on to say they were also charged an additional $30,000 victim fine surcharge.

Apparently, the violation at the Van Boekel Hog Farm was not the first for this farm.  In 2012, the owners were fined in excess of $350,000 for a similar issue.

While this most recent incident dates back several years (this 2014 ruling followed an appeal) there seems a general trend of increased environmental enforcement activity in Ontario.  You may recall the recent $130,000 fine for fly-rock discharge and the Toronto Dry Cleaner that was fined $60,000 last fall.

With this said, it might be a good time to review your environmental permitting requirements, including Toxic Substance Reduction Plans (TSRP), Water Taking Permits, or any other process or discharge that requires an Environmental Activity & Sector Registry (EASR) or Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA).

If you need assistance with an environmental permit, or if you just have a question about whether or not you need a permit, contact Andrew Tymec, P. Eng (atymec@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300, ext 118.

Burlington Company Fined $130,000 for Rock Discharge

Austin Powder Ltd. has been fined $130,000 after pleading guilty to discharging “fly rock” from a quarry blasting site into the natural environment.  This fly rock caused off-site impacts, and the company failed to report the discharges as required in the Environmental Protection Act  (EPA)  ( Note: fly rock meets the definition of a “contaminant” under the EPA).

Austin Powder Ltd (located in New Brunswick with an office in Burlington, Ontario) provides quarry-blasting services.  According to a report by the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, in the summer of 2009, Austin Powder was contracted to provide quarry blasting services to a company that owns and operates a limestone quarry near Arnprior, Ontario.  The quarry is licensed under the Aggregates Resources Act.

The report also states that on July 20 and 23, 2009, “…during blasting fly rock was discharged beyond the control area of 200 metres.  In the first incident, a small rock struck a worker at a neighbouring business on the arm.  In the second incident, rocks were observed flying well beyond the control area.  A scale house located 230 metres from the blast was struck by a number of rocks.  Two vehicles held at a controlled stop along nearby Young Road on the edge of the quarry property located about 300 metres from the blast were also struck by rock resulting in extensive damage.  There were no injuries even though the blast damaged property and impaired the safety of people.”

As a result of this discharge, Austin Powder was fined $65,000 on each of the two offences, for a total of $130,000 plus victim fine surcharges totalling to $32,500.  The company was given six months to pay the fine.

So as you consider your operations and various contaminates/discharges, keep in mind that as the Supreme Court of Canada recently stated on a similar case, “when in doubt report.”

To read more about this story, click here

If you have questions or require assistance with an environmental permit, please contact Andrew Tymec, P. Eng. (atymec@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300, ext 118.

Earth Day – a Celebration of Wise use of the Earth’s Natural Resources

On April 22nd, Canadians across the country celebrated Earth Day 2014 by participating in “civic-minded environmental” activities in their local communities.  Perhaps you took a moment to consider how you might be a more mindful steward of our environment.

Earth Day celebrations have grown globally since its founding in 1970 by US Senator Gaylord Nelson.  The US Senator was inspired to do something after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

Fortunately, Canada has never had an eco-disaster of the magnitude of the Santa Barbara oil spill; the Bhopal, India methyl isocyanate gas release; the Chernobyl, Russia nuclear disaster; or the Great Smog of 1952 in London, England.  However, we’ve had our share of environmental incidents, including the Walkerton drinking-water contamination, the Sydney Tar Ponds, and the recent July 2013 rail disaster and petroleum explosion in the town of Lac-Megantic.

Avoiding eco-disasters is certainly something all Canadians can rally around.  We all want clean air and clean water for our children and grandchildren.  The real challenge, it would seem, is how do we balance environmental protection with the use of the abundant natural resources with which Canadians have been so blessed?

The balance of environmental protection, use of natural resources, and economic growth has been the focal point as development of the bituminous sands in Alberta has become more viable, as well as prolific, in recent years.  What makes this discussion so challenging is these issues all affect the lives and livelihoods of fellow Canadians.  And make no mistake; these are highly emotionally charged topics!

But, if we can truly achieve this aforementioned balance (environmental protection, use of natural resources, and economic growth), then the future will indeed be bright for Canadians and our environment.

Happy Earth Day 2014

Environmental Forensics – Redux

While we spent about two hours putting all of this into context at our recent seminar, here’s one of the most important take aways from our Environmental Forensics seminar:

 Remediation decisions, court decisions, the decision to do more investigation…are not based on what is actually in the subsurface; decisions are made based on the Conceptual Site Model (CSM).

It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a petroleum release, a TCE release, trying to better understand a potential vapour intrusion issue, or differentiating between various sources of releases…if you don’t have a robust CSM you could be headed for years of frustration.

This “robust” CSM should include everything you know about a site, including the following:

  • Site history
  • Hydrogeologic information
  • Release source and timing
  • Physical and chemical properties of the release
  • Contaminant fate and transport
  • Distribution of chemicals
  • Risks/exposure pathways/receptors

…and, of course, the level of detail you uncover in each of the above will add more and more clarity to your CSM.

If you would like to learn more about how you might use forensic techniques to get your site investigation or remediation back on track, contact Dr. Michael Sklash (msklash@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300, ext 120, and ask him about our Peer Review. 

Discharge Under Fisheries Act Clarified?

The current pollution prevention provisions in Canada’s Fisheries Act include a general prohibition on polluting water frequented by fish.  What this has meant is that even well managed activities; including those activities that are protective of water frequented by fish and in compliance with provincial regulations may still not be in compliance with the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.  The result is the exact thing industry despises…uncertainty.

So, on February 14, 2014, the Regulations Establishing Conditions for the Exercise of the Minister’s Regulation-Making Power under Subsection 36(5.2) of the Fisheries Act (the “Enabling Regulations”) were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I (the comment period ended March 17, 2014).  The resulting Enabling Regulations would establish conditions under which the Minister of the Environment may authorize deposits of deleterious substances in waters frequented by fish by way of ministerial regulations.

However, before this authority can be exercised, the Governor in Council (GIC) must make regulations that set forth conditions on the use of this new authority.

Hopefully, these proposed changes will reduce inefficiencies, overlapping regulations, and reduce risk by clarifying conditions for discharge.

To read more, see the Canada Gazette.

If you have questions about an environmental issue, please contact Christopher Parė, P. Geo, (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300.

Environmental Forensics: Putting Together the Jigsaw

Addressing contaminated groundwater is never pleasant, but it gets even more frustrating when you are tagged as the responsible party when you may not be wholly, or even partly, responsible.

Join us in Burlington, Ontario for a discussion on Environmental Forensics. In just 2½ hours, you’ll see how to put the jigsaw pieces together to convince regulators and courts “who done it” – who actually bears the responsibility.

For more information or to register, click here