January 12, 2004

Education campaigns reinforce Alberta Environment's compliance efforts

Nearly 1,500 assessments by Alberta Environment inspectors in 2002-03 found most Alberta companies with environmental authorizations to be meeting or surpassing provincial environmental standards.

Departmental staff carried out 1,491 assessments in 2002-03, including 965 unannounced site or field inspections and 526 unannounced audits and sampling events, as documented in Alberta Environment's latest Compliance Assessment and Enforcement Initiatives Annual Report. The audits were intended to confirm that methods and procedures met the department's quality assurance/quality control standards. Together, these activities found a uniformly high rate of compliance across all regulatory areas administered by Alberta Environment.

More complex and comprehensive initiatives during the reporting period included an assessment of every municipal drinking water treatment facility in the province and three education and inspection "sweeps," targeting specific industries or geographic areas. Operation HazVac focused on businesses in Alberta's vacuum truck industry; Operation Northwind targeted businesses in northeast Edmonton; and Operation Chinook was carried out in the Pincher Creek/Crowsnest Pass area west of Lethbridge.

Operation HazVac conducted unannounced inspections of more than 170 vacuum trucks, to ensure that these businesses were complying with provincial legislation. The report notes that subsequent feedback from the vacuum truck industry has indicated that this sector is prepared to modify its practices to ensure compliance.

Operation Northwind sought out facilities in northwest Edmonton's Mistatim Industrial Park with air emission sources and hazardous waste/recyclables storage. Department officers inspected 117 facilities and issued 37 notices of non-compliance (31%). Two cases were referred for further enforcement action; cleanup work was carried out, however, and no additional action will be taken.

About 18 air emission sources in the area were found to be emitting mainly sawdust, paint fumes and combustion gases. Two of these sources were found to be operating improperly, and one facility is still being investigated, says the report.

Operation Chinook began with an information package on hazardous waste storage, distributed to small businesses. This was followed by unannounced inspections of 67 facilities; 22 notices were issued for infractions ranging from no secondary containment of hazardous wastes to improper security. No major non-compliance incidents were found, however, and follow-up was done with all non-compliant businesses to ensure that corrective action was taken.

Alberta Environment also provided assistance to the province's Orphan Well Association by confirming which sites were orphans. During 2002-03, the department issued environmental protection orders to 70 orphan wells and sites; once these orders lapsed into non-compliance, the association had legal authority to launch remediation and reclamation work. Also during this period, the department worked in consultation with affected parties on the revision of its remediation and reclamation program for upstream oil and gas facilities. The changes are intended to streamline regulatory processes while maintaining environmental protection.

During the reporting period, 129 charges were laid for offences under Alberta's environmental legislation, including the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the Water Act. Charges concluded during this period resulted in total fines of just over $131,000, with 25 administrative penalties imposed totalling an additional $103,500.

The report may be requested from Alberta Environment's Information Centre, 780/422-2079, or viewed on-line at www.gov.ab.ca/env.

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