February 7, 2005

Vandalism incident leads to conviction for sawmill operator

HEARST, ONT-Tri-Cept (Hearst) Industries, owner and operator of a sawmill in Hearst, Ontario, was convicted of a charge under the provincial Environmental Protection Act and fined $5,000 plus a victim fine surcharge. As part of its operations, sawdust from the mill is transferred via a pipeline to an adjacent facility where it is used as a raw material in the board manufacturing process of a second, separately-owned company. In February 2003, the company rerouted the flow of sawdust to an on-site storage bin following an act of vandalism to the pipeline. Subsequently, a rubber seal on the storage bin ruptured, discharging sawdust into the environment. Predominant winds blew the sawdust off the company's property and onto those of area residents. A Ministry of Environment investigation concluded that the company failed to exercise due diligence in trying to prevent the sawdust release, and charged Tri-Cept with discharging sawdust into the natural environment that caused an adverse effect, contrary to section 186(1) of the Act. The case went to trial, where the court found that the mill should have stopped its operation to prevent the further discharge of sawdust once it became clear that the discharge could not rapidly be brought under control.

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