November 3, 2000

Inspection blitz targets 270 Calgary businesses

Nearly 270 businesses in the northeast section of Calgary were targeted for unannounced compliance inspections between October 24 and 27 in a joint effort involving Alberta Environment, the city's Fire Department and municipal bylaw enforcement officers. Public concerns expressed about deteriorating water quality in Nose Creek, which runs through the area, prompted the inspection campaign.

The inspections were carried out by four teams, each with three members representing the provincial department and the municipal agencies. At the provincial level, the goal was to ensure that companies were in compliance with requirements for proper waste management under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Jay Litke of the department's enforcement and monitoring division told ELW.

Calgary officials focused on compliance with municipal sewer bylaws and the city's fire code (i.e. addressing flammable liquids). The fire department temporarily closed two companies pending corrective action to deal with code violations, he noted.

The inspection blitz resulted in the issuing of 90 non-compliance notices. Under Alberta Environment's Operation Clean Water program, these are issued for minor infractions.

Most of the notices issued last week, said Litke, related to improper storage of hazardous wastes, citing issues such as lack of secondary containment or adequate labelling. No major violations were found. Within the next 30 to 60 days, officials will check up on a representative sample of the 90 businesses issued notices to see that corrective action has been taken. These follow-up inspections will target the most serious of the problems found.

Since last week's inspection campaign, Litke added, the department has received a number of calls from companies in the area, to report not only that they have initiated compliance action, they have informed neighbouring businesses about the requirements. It shows, he told ELW, that in many cases, non-compliance is due to lack of knowledge about the regulatory requirements.

Enforcement activity summaries

Alberta Environment reports that during the 1999-2000 fiscal year, it obtained more than 3,700 convictions and levied 81 administrative penalties for violations of environmental laws and regulations. The total value of the penalties was over $900,000, with more than $690,000 in court penalties assessed and $230,000 in administrative penalties.

The department's enforcement and monitoring division has recently begun issuing quarterly activity reports relating to enforcement of the province's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA). These documents list companies and individuals which have been subject to actions under the EPEA (ranging from warning letters and tickets to administrative penalties, environmental protection orders, enforcement orders or prosecutions). Summaries of contraventions are included, along with the action taken, date of decision or penalty in each case, and the relevant regulation of section of the act. The latest summary, for the period July1-September 30, 2000, was released last week.

Summaries are also available of enforcement activities dating back to April 1998. They may be viewed on Alberta Environment's Web site at www.gov.ab.ca/env/protenf/enforcement/index.html.

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