The official word from Environment Canada on September 23, 2013, was “Ashford Cleaners Inc. was convicted of contravening the Tetrachloroethylene Regulations.” The Toronto Dry Cleaner was fined $60,000 for offences that included improper storage and containment of tetrachloroethene waste water and residue.
There are at least a couple of noteworthy observations from this August 2013 enforcement action. But first a little background on the chemical. Tetrachloroethene is also known as Tetrachloroethylene, PCE, perchloroethene, or PERC. This chemical, as many are aware, has been used in dry cleaning operations for a very long time.
While the use of the chemical isn’t new, the regulations are relatively new. Environment Canada implemented the “Tetrachloroethene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations” in February 2003. This regulation provides rules for the use and storage of PCE, waste water, and residues at dry cleaning facilities. But the regulation didn’t have a lot of “enforcement teeth.”
To address the enforcement issue, on June 22, 2012, the Environmental Enforcement Act (EEA) was amended, resulting in the creation of the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act (EVAMPA). EVAMPA provides authority to issue Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs).
So in order to avoid fines and penalties, dry cleaners want to avoid a release, right? Actually, you can be penalized for violations far short of a release. In addition to regulating equipment specifications and use and storage of PCE, the regulation specifies reporting for importation, recycling, sale, and use of PCE. A person who imports, recycles, sells, or uses PCE is required to keep and report records to the Minister of the Environment. If you don’t keep these records, you could be fined.
Finally, it’s at least noteworthy that according to the regulation, you are not allowed to sell PCE to a dry cleaner if the dry cleaning equipment does not comply with the Tetrachloroethene regulation. So, could a supplier who sold to a dry cleaner that did not comply with the regulations be fined? That’s a question for legal counsel – but suppliers should consider this.
This recent action should, at a minimum, result in not just dry cleaners, but everyone who handles regulated chemicals to take a second look at their chemical handling practices. It should also prompt you to evaluate your internal and external reporting/documentation/record keeping practices to avoid unnecessary fines, penalties, and the resultant public relations challenges.
If you have questions about environmental permitting/planning, environmental site assessments/remediation, or litigation support, contact Christopher Parė, P. Geo. (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 519-979-7300.
Thanks to Allan Clifford Lawton and Christopher Parė, P. Geo who authored this blog