Huge Manure Spill Fines: $120,000 Plus Surcharge

Two hog farming businesses and a Director must pay manure spill fines of $120,000, plus $30,000 victim fine surcharges, for discharging pig manure into the Thames River and Sweets Creek. The manure impaired the quality of water, contrary to the Ontario Water Resources Act. The individual Director also pleaded guilty and was fined for failing to take reasonable care to prevent the discharges, contrary to the duty of corporate directors under the Ontario Water Resources Act. In 2012, the same family’s companies were fined $345,000 for similar manure spills that caused water pollution plus a jail term for an individual farmer.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, Eric Van Boekel is an Officer and General Manager of Van Boekel Holdings Inc., engaged in the hog farming business. The company was incorporated in 1993 and owns the farm located on Braemar Sideroad in the Township of East Zorra-Tavistock. A large pig barn is located about 100 metres from the edge of the property line near the Thames River.

On April 29, 2007, the main water pipe in the pig barn burst and flooded the barn. The liquid eventually overflowed the barn, entered the fields and flowed down towards the edge of the property where it ponded just above the valley brim. Although a farm worker attended the barn to fix the pipe, he did not follow the flow of liquid to see whether it had entered the Thames River.

In response to a complaint from a tenant on the farm on May 1, 2007 an environmental agricultural officer of the ministry attended the property and observed a small stream of liquid running from the barn and signs of a larger flow sometime earlier. He followed the path through the field to where it had ponded just before the valley brim. Below the valley brim a similar stream of liquid flowed down the slope and into the Thames River.

Samples taken by the officer close to the barn and entrance point into the Thames River proved that pig manure had entered the waterway. Charges were subsequently laid.

Van Boekel Hog Farms Inc. was incorporated in 1990 and Eric W. Van Boekel is listed as the company Director. The hog farm has pig barns and is located on Maple Dell Road in the Township of Norwich, County of Oxford. Sweets Creek runs through the property.

The company utilizes a tractor and liquid nutrient application equipment to spread pig manure from holding tanks on the property.

On May 3, 2007, in response to a complaint of a significant pig manure spill, a Provincial Officer and two inspectors from Environment Canada attended the property in Norwich Township. The officers observed that the water in Sweets Creek was murky and found that the manure being spread on the field had entered Sweets Creek through a hidden tile drain under the creek bed without a catch basin.

The company immediately brought in a backhoe to dig up the tile to stop the discharge. A ministry inspector took water samples that revealed manure had entered the Creek.

Following an appeal, the defendants pleaded guilty and Eric Van Boekel was fined a total of $20,000 and Van Boekel Holdings Inc. and Van Boekel Hog Farms Inc. were each fined 50,000 for a total of$120,000 plus $30,000 in victim fine surcharges.

In 2012, Eric and Yvonne Van Boekel, Van Boekel Hog Farms Inc. and Van Boekel Holdings Inc. were fined a total of $345,000 plus 25% victim fine surcharge, for repeated hog manure spills from two pig farms, that caused adverse effects to their neighbours and impaired water quality. Mr. Van Boekel was also sentenced to serve 30 days in jail.

    By Dianne Saxe, Ontario Environmental Lawyer

Reprinted with permission from the Environmental Law and Litigation Blog.

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