November 7, 2005

Ontario firms fined nearly $1 million for violations of OWRA, EP Act

Two large companies in the mining and food processing sectors have been fined a total of $907,500 after pleading guilty to charges under the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) and the Environmental Protection Act (EP Act).

Goldcorp, owner and operator of Red Lake and Wilanour mines in Red Lake, Ontario, was fined $225,000, while Maple Leaf Foods, carrying on business as Rothsay, was fined a total of $682,500. Victim fine surcharges were levied in addition to these penalties.

The two Goldcorp mines operate tailings areas under a Ministry of Environment (MOE) certificate of approval (C of A) for sewage works. In the spring of 2003, the company added chemical treatment at the Red Lake mine site sewage works and undertook additional construction at the tailing areas for both mine sites without amending the C of As for the sewage works.

During September 2004, the company also discharged approximately 110,000 cubic metres of tailings effluent to Bruce Channel of Red Lake without submitting a start-up report to the MOE, as required by its C of A. The MOE laid charges following an investigation by its investigations and enforcement branch.

The company pleaded guilty to three charges under the OWRA. Two of the charges relate to altering a sewage works not in accordance with the company's C of As, contrary to section 53(1) of the act. The company was fined $25,000 on one of these charges and $50,000 on the other, for a total of $75,000. Goldcorp was also fined another $150,000 for violating section 53(5) of the OWRA by using or operating a sewage works other than in accordance with its C of A.

In addition, the company was issued a section 112 order under the OWRA. Among other requirements, Goldcorp must have its new treatment plant at the Red Lake Mine division constructed and fully functional before expanding its production; the company must also make improvements to its treatment plant at the Wilanour mine site by May 1, 2006.

Eighteen charges laid against Maple Leaf Foods' Rothsay plant in Hamilton, resulted in fines totalling $682,500 for violations of the OWRA and Ontario Regulation 347 under the EP Act.

The Rothsay facility recycles animal and poultry by-products, including bones, trim, fat, and offal into a broad range of commercial tallow and protein products. At a number of times during 2001, 2003 and 2004, the MOE received complaints about odours emanating from various sources at the company. Reported effects included nausea, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, terminated social events and inability to enjoy outdoor property.

On three occasions as well, the company failed to provide shipping manifests to the Ministry for the transportation of wastes generated at its plant, as required by EP Act regulations. Moreover, Rothsay further failed to comply with its C of A, provincial officer's orders and orders issued by the Environmental Review Tribunal relating to stormwater studies, lagoon decommissioning, liquid levels in lagoons, sampling and analysis of effluent, and maintenance of effluent quality.

Inspections by the Ministry, together with the public complaints, prompted an investigation by the investigations and enforcement branch which led to charges against the company. Rothsay pleaded guilty to the following 18 counts:

* odour causing adverse effects, in 2001, 2003 and 2004

* failing to return Copy 1 of the Manifest to the Ministry (three counts)

* failing to submit stormwater study

* failing to comply with a provincial officer's order to decommission Lagoons 1 and 3

* failing to maintain minimum freeboard in their lagoons (three counts)

* failing to analyze for required parameters

* failing to take grab sample at their clearwell

* discharging effluent containing excessive total suspended solids

* discharging effluent containing excessive unionized ammonia (three counts)

* discharging effluent containing excessive total residual chlorine in effluent

* discharging effluent containing excessive biochemical oxygen demand (two counts)

The company was fined $450,000 for the odours emissions charge and $232,500 for the remaining 17 charges. Odour complaints from the summer of 2005 are currently under investigation. The court was also told that Rothsay has taken steps to address the numerous odour complaints as well as the matters involved in the other charges.

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