July 3, 2006

Fisheries Act conviction marks first for advice leading to client's offence

In a landmark case, Gemtec, an environmental consulting company, and Robert Lutes, a project engineer with the firm, were convicted of violating the pollution prevention provisions of the federal Fisheries Act. The convictions, handed down after a five-week trial, marked the first time that an engineering consulting company has been convicted of providing advice to a client that resulted in the client violating federal environmental law.

The charges related to the deposit of acutely lethal landfill leachate into New Brunswick's Petitcodiac watershed from the former Moncton landfill site. The case demonstrated that consultants who fail to incorporate environmental compliance into their advice to clients can and may be held accountable for their role in any resultant environmental offence.

In addition to a $5,000 fine, Gemtec was ordered to contribute $10,000 to Canada's Environmental Damages Fund. Lutes was fined $1,000 and also ordered to contribute $1,000 to the Fund. The company and Lutes must also pay $10,000 and $1,000, respectively, to the Jonathan Creek Committee, a local environmental organization.

In March 2002, Environment Canada charged Gemtec and Lutes, along with the city of Moncton and Moncton city engineer Geoff Greenough after a year-long investigation. The investigation was prompted by a complaint made to Environment Canada by the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers, a local environmental organization.

In September 2003, the city pleaded guilty and was fined $35,000 and ordered to take remedial measures to reduce the leachate flow from the landfill site. Charges against Greenough were withdrawn by the Crown.

Gemtec had been contracted by the city of Moncton to provide closure options for the former Moncton landfill and to implement the closure plan that it had recommended.

More information is available from Gary Greene at Environment Canada, 902/426-6619.

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