June 19, 2006

BC revives compliance reporting, reviews progress on crown contaminated sites

The British Columbia Ministry of Environment has revived its reporting of compliance and enforcement activities with the release of a new quarterly summary by Environment Minister Barry Penner. Similar reports were published during the 1990s, but ended in mid-1999.

"We have published the name of every single corporation that was issued an order, ticket, or was convicted within the three-month reporting period, and we will continue to publish those names quarterly," said Penner.

The summary reports compliance and enforcement actions taken across the entire ministry between January 1 and March 31, 2006. During this period:

*Five orders were issued to prevent or stop impacts to the environment, human health or safety;

*46 administrative licensing sanctions were taken against individual or commercial hunters or anglers for violations of various sections of the Wildlife Act; and

*258 tickets were issued, under the Environmental Management Act, the Waste Management Act, the Water Act, BC's Forest Practices Code Act, the Park Act and the federal Fisheries Act, as well as other legislation for which the Environment Ministry has compliance and enforcement responsibility.

In addition, 13 court convictions were obtained during the first quarter, all but one against individuals for violations of the Wildlife Act and related laws. The sole corporate conviction (and largest single fine) involved Golden Boy Foods: the Burnaby firm was convicted of introducing business or industrial waste into the environment, contrary to the Waste Management Act, and fined $65,000.

The five orders were issued to two companies and three individuals under BC's Environmental Management Act, Water Act and Dike Maintenance Act. The two companies, 499701 BC Ltd, in Fort Nelson, and R&G Lennox Contracting, in Fort St John, were issued pollution prevention orders relating to effluent releases.

Only one of the 46 administrative sanctions imposed was against a company, a Kootenay guide outfitter. The most severe penalty was levied against a Vanderhoof individual, who was fined a total of $30,000 for violations of both the Wildlife Act and BC's Firearm Act and was ordered to take conservation and outdoor recreation education training. An 11-year licence suspension was imposed as well, in view of the nature and repeated frequency of the offences.

The ministry is investing an additional $1.5 million on compliance and enforcement this year, including the creation of a new industrial and commercial investigative unit that will focus on commercial and industrial activities.

The Quarterly Compliance and Enforcement Summary may be viewed on the Ministry of Environment Web site, www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/prgs/compliancereport.html.

The BC government also marked Environment Week with the release of a new report reviewing its progress in cleaning up crown contaminated sites through the province's Crown Contaminated Sites program. The Crown Contaminated Sites Biennial Report, 2006 comes on the heels of the inauguration of the treatment facility at the Britannia mine site, which had been one of North America's leading sources of metal pollution.

Nearly all-94%-of BC's land base is under crown ownership, which makes the provincial government responsible for historic contaminated sites. Since August 2001, the BC government has committed $116.9 million to locate, clean up and return to productive use a number of crown contaminated sites, and has earmarked an additional $47.2 million for work between 2007 and 2009.

The Crown Contaminated Sites program was established in 2003 in response to a report by the provincial Auditor General on the management of contaminated sites on provincial lands. The Auditor General has estimated that there are more than 2,000 known or potentially contaminated sites in BC.

Led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the program has been highly successful in improving the environmental quality of historic contaminated sites and restoring those lands for productive use. The ministry heads a provincial Contaminated Sites Committee, whose members represent several other ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Environment which looks after the regulatory aspects relating to contaminated sites through the Environmental Management Act and the contaminated sites regulation. It is the Committee's job to single out candidate sites and rank them in terms of their potential threat to the environment and human health. New sites are listed annually and the list of priority sites is updated regularly.

"We've had tremendous success at a number of sites including remediation of a former landfill on the Pitt River, cleaning up acid rock drainage flowing from the old Britannia Mine, and transformation of the Expo '86 site from industrial wasteland to the highly desirable False Creek community," said Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell. "Historic contaminated sites are reminders of times when people weren't as aware of environmental implications, and the standards and practices of the day reflected that," Bell noted.

An example of the program's progress is the Yankee Girl mine in the Kootenay Mountains, which operated from the late 1800s until the 1950s, producing gold, silver, lead, iron, zinc and cadmium. As part of this historical mining activity, tailings were deposited over a two-hectare area on the banks of the Salmo River and Ymir Creek. The tailings have been on the site since the mine ceased operations well over a half-century ago. The Crown Contaminated Sites program has been working with the nearby community of Ymir to clean up the site.

"The mine hasn't been in operation for more than 50 years, and the Salmo River was cutting away at the tailings and washing them downstream," explained Hans Cunningham, a director with the Central Kootenay regional district. "That's all changed now that the province has built an erosion barrier. Further work will be done this year to determine what to do with the tailings. I'm optimistic that the community will once again be able to use this site," he added.

The Yankee Girl mine site is one of nine current priority sites, two of which the report lists as remediated: the Goose Bay cannery site and the Pitt River landfill site. In addition to the Britannia, Yankee Girl and Pacific Place sites, those listed as still under remediation include Meadow Avenue in Burnaby and Oak Street in Vancouver (both urban industrial sites); the Ocean Falls pulp mill site; and the Malakwa landfill site.

Three brownfield pilot sites are under investigation for cleanup and potential redevelopment opportunities. These include Millstream Meadows, a landfill on Vancouver Island historically used for septic discharge; Ladysmith Harbour, once the focal point of various industrial operations in the town of Ladysmith; and the New Westminster gasworks, an urban industrial site on which a coal gasification plant was located.

A detailed investigation of the Ladysmith Harbour in mid-2005 was followed by a request for expressions of interest in January 2006. As a result of the response, the report notes that a request for proposal has been made to a select group of developers. Under an agreement between the provincial government and the Capital Regional District (current owner of the Millstream Meadows site), the site can be used only as a sewage lagoon and the parties are exploring the most cost-effective cleanup methods. The gasworks site has good commercial potential and the New Westminster government is working with the province and the private sector to determine how best to clean up and redevelop this property.

One of the results of the program, adds the report, has been the creation of a provincial Crown Contaminated Sites database. Its design is now complete and initial data from the Environment and the Transportation ministries have been loaded onto the database, which now contains 840 sites. More will be added in years to come.

To view the full report, visit: www.agf.gov.bc.ca/clad/ccs/biennial_reports/06_CCSB_report.pdf

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