Teck Metals Ltd. has agreed to pay $325,000 for depositing mercury into the Columbia River, and allowing a leachate to overflow into Stoney Creek. This action is in response to two chemical spills that took place in 2010.
Of the total amount being paid, $100,000 will go to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF). This fund was created in 1995 as a means to direct monetary penalties and settlements toward the repair of the actual harm done to the environment. The designated funds will be applied to projects that will improve water quality monitoring or protect, enhance or restore fish habitats in the lower Columbia River.
The remaining funds will be designated to support a variety of community environmental initiatives.
On September 13, 2010, Environment Canada was notified that contaminated groundwater from the Teck Metals Ltd. facility was leaking into Stoney Creek, which flows directly into the Columbia River. On October 7, 2010, Environment Canada was notified of a mercury spill into the Columbia River from one of the outfalls from the Teck Metals Ltd. facility. Investigations revealed that potential violations under the Fisheries Act had taken place during these instances.
Environment Canada’s enforcement officers and the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Commercial Environmental Investigations Unit collaborated on a joint investigation into these spills. In consultation with Teck Metals Ltd., the decision was made to pursue an alternative measure known as a Community Justice Forum.
During the Forum, which was held May 10-11, 2011 Teck Metals Ltd. also agreed to implement various measures to better protect and enhance the environment, including reviewing plans, increasing inspections and monitoring and restricting site access.
A Community Justice Forum brings an offender, victim(s) and their respective stakeholders together with a trained facilitator to discuss an offence and its effects. Jointly, the group decides how to resolve the situation. A similar program of alternative measures is recognized under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and theSpecies at Risk Act as an authorized option for dealing with violations.
This is the first time Environment Canada has used the Community Justice Forum process in an enforcement matter. As a result, Environment Canada has had direct input into changes within Teck Metals Ltd. that will reduce the risk of similar spills in the future.
Source: Environment Canada