May 21-28, 2007

Sarnia chemical company pleads guilty to 11 charges, faces $760K in fines

SARNIA, ONT-Chinook Global, a Sarnia chemical manufacturer, was fined $760,000 and levied a victim fine surcharge in connection with a 2005 release of ammonia into the St Clair River, plus air emission violations dating from 2004. In the fall of 2004, the company, which had been producing methylamines, dimethylformamide and choline chloride, changed its operations, leaving only the choline chloride unit in operation. In July 2005, following unusually heavy rainfall, Chinook decided to start discharging treated effluent from its holding pond directly into the St Clair River, and did so for eight days. The company's certificate of approval (C of A) required Chinook to monitor its final treated effluent, which was sampled and analyzed daily for several parameters, including total ammonia. On July 25, 2005, Chinook's laboratory reported elevated levels in the effluent indicative of a high ammonia concentration. The company immediately stopped discharging the effluent into the river but did not report the exceedances to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) until the next day. Following an investigation by the ministry's investigations and enforcement branch, Chinook was charged, under section 30(1) of the Ontario Water Resources Act, for each day it permitted the discharge of ammonia into the river. The company was also charged with failing to report the ammonia exceedances to the ministry as soon as reasonably possible, contrary to section 40(3) of Ontario Regulation 63/95. Further charges, related to air emission exceedances from the plant in October 2004, were laid against Chinook. These included two counts of failing to comply with a condition of its C of A, contrary to section 186(3) of the Environmental Protection Act. The company pleaded guilty to a total of 11 counts.

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