Teck Metals Ltd. was ordered to pay a $3,000,000 penalty on February 29, 2016, in British Columbia Provincial Court after pleading guilty to three offences under the Fisheries Act related to releases of effluent deleterious to fish into the Columbia River.
In addition to the penalty, Teck Metals Ltd. agreed to undertake on-site improvement projects. The company estimates that these projects, which are intended to prevent future incidents, will cost the company $50,000,000 to implement.
Marko Goluza, Pacific and Yukon regional director for Environment and Climate Change Canada, told the Globe and Mail that he “couldn’t recall a company ever having to pay an environmental fine in B.C. of more than $1-million, making the total fines the largest ever awarded in one environmental case.”
Environment and Climate Change Canada investigated multiple incidents resulting in the discharge of approximately 125 million litres of effluent from Teck Metals Ltd. into the Columbia River between November 28, 2013, and February 5, 2015. “Effluent deleterious to fish” is a liquid that is released from the facility that would degrade or alter the quality of water making it harmful to fish.
In a statement, Teck Metals said the incidents discharged water with elevated levels of substances including copper, zinc, ammonia, chlorine and cadmium. Reviews conducted following each incident confirmed there was no human health risk and no indication of long-term impact on fish or the environment.
List of incidents as described by Teck Metals:
- Testing at an outfall indicated elevated copper levels: November 12, 2013
- Concrete accidentally entered an outfall, causing the pH to rise: November 28, 2013
- Equipment plugging allowed water containing zinc dust to overflow to an outfall: December 22, 2013
- A failed valve check resulted in a short release of ammonia to an outfall: January 15, 2014
- High pH solution was discharged to a domestic sewer line: January 28, 2014
- A power outage caused a short shutdown of the de-chlorination system, resulting in chlorinated water being released: July 15, 2014
- A maintenance shutdown resulted in elevated chlorine at an outfall: October 26-27 and November 18, 2014
- Maintenance work resulted in an accidental discharge of a low pH solution to an outfall: December 9, 2014
- Elevated cadmium at an outfall resulting from water runoff at site: October 22 and December 6, 2014; January 20 and February 5, 2015.
The $3,000,000 penalty will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund for fish habitat and fisheries restoration projects in the Kootenay River or Columbia River watersheds.
As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.
Related Professional Course:
Plan to attend Spills & Environmental Emergencies: Liability & Best Practices at the Canadian Environmental Conference and Tradeshow April 27, 2016 in Mississauga, ON. Topics include: Spills-related legislation and best practices; Contingency Planning: Best ‘Real World’ Practices; Spill response: Legal cautions and strategies; and much more. With speakers from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the City of Vaughn, Norton Rose Fullbright LLP, and more. Click here for more information.