$36K fine levied for sodium hypochlorite spill, firm pays cleanup, study costs
GODERICH, ONT-Jerry MacLean and Son Automotive was fined $36,000 plus a victim fine surcharge after pleading guilty to a charge under the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) in connection with a spill of sodium hypochlorite solution. The company, operating in the municipality of South Huron, keeps a 1,500-(U.S.) gallon-capacity tank on-site for the storage of sodium hypochlorite solution, a swimming pool disinfectant. During the night of April 18, 2005, the tank fell over, spilling an estimated 4,690 litres of the solution. The tank had no secondary containment structure to control leaks or spills. The spilled solution flowed into two catchbasins on the property and from there entered a municipal storm sewer, ultimately discharging into the Ausable River. The spill was estimated to have caused the deaths of thousands of fish and other aquatic life for a distance of approximately 5.1 kilometres downstream of the entry point. The Ministry of Environment (MOE) laid a charge following an investigation. The company pleaded guilty to permitting the discharge of a contaminant into a watercourse that impaired water quality, contrary to section 30(1) of the OWRA. The court was told that, immediately upon learning of the spill, company co-owner Gary MacLean notified the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) and asked for guidance on handling the situation. The ABCA contacted the MOE, and MacLean co-operated fully with ministry personnel. He also organized a fish cleanup with a local high school biology class and ABCA staff. The company paid for the cleanup (approximately $970), funded a reference study by the ABCA (completed at a cost of approximately $11,500) and made an additional donation of $5,000 to assist in any follow-up studies that may be required.