January 24, 2005

CNR pleads guilty to fuel oil spill charge, $25K fine levied

RICHMOND HILL, ONT-Canadian National Railway (CNR) was fined $25,000, plus a victim fine surcharge, in connection with fuel oil spill from its railway line in the town of Richmond Hill. As part of its winter operations, the company's railway track switches are heated with oil-fired heaters which use copper piping to transport the fuel oil from above-ground storage tanks. located above ground. On January 5, 2001, local residents smelled oil fumes in their townhouse in Richmond Hill. Snowcover made the exact extent of the spill difficult to determine, but it is estimated that as much as 1,500 gallons of fuel oil may have flowed from a sheared copper pipe onto the ground and into the groundwater. The oil then made its way into the nearby German Mills Creek and likely impaired the creek water. A severed above-ground pipe was found to be the cause of the spill. An analysis of water samples taken from the creek on March 7, 2001 showed that the creek water still contained fuel oil. Subsequently, CNR took extensive steps to remediate the site, including relocating the residents from their townhouse where the oil was first detected to a hotel and later to another townhouse. Nevertheless, the company was charged under section 30(1) of the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) with causing or permitting the discharge of a material (i.e. fuel oil) into German Mills Creek that may impair the quality of the water of any waters. CNR pleaded guilty to the single charge.
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