Two Alberta construction companies have been convicted under the Fisheries Act for rupturing municipal water mains, discharging chlorinated drinking water into storm sewers and fish habitat.
Treated municipal drinking water is harmful to fish, which is why it cannot be used as is in aquariums. So is it a breach of the Fisheries Act to discharge municipal drinking water into storm sewers? And does it matter how much?
Norellco Contractors Ltd. was ordered to pay $185,000 after pleading guilty to one count of an offence under the Fisheries Act, for releasing chlorinated municipal drinking water into the Sturgeon River.
Norellco twice broke a high pressure water main by using a backhoe within one metre of the pipe. As a result, approximately 18,000 litres of chlorinated drinking water was discharged into local sewer drains leading to the Sturgeon River.
A second break discharged a further estimated 16,000 litres of chlorinated drinking water into the river. The company failed to follow guidelines set out in the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code. Tests showed the chlorinated water was deleterious to fish.
· The company will also participate in the 2015 Northern Construction Safety Officers Conference to inform attendees about the releases, the causes and how preventative measures can avoid future incidents.
· $180,000 of the total penalty will be credited toward the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) to promote the proper management and protection of fish or fish habitat in Alberta.
· The Sturgeon River is home to a number of fish species, including White Sucker, Northern Pike and Longnose Dace.
Clark Builders was ordered to pay $285,000 after pleading guilty to one count, for releasing approximately 12 million litres of chlorinated water into the North Saskatchewan River after striking a water main during a construction project. Samples of the chlorinated water showed that it was harmful to fish. The North Saskatchewan River has the highest diversity of fish species of any river in Alberta, including burbot, mountain whitefish, walleye, sauger, and other species.
The water main was hit by a sub-contractor working for Clark Builders. Clark Builders, as construction managers of the project, failed to obtain underground locations for the water main prior to excavating foundation pilings for a pool building at the Royal Glenora Club.
Of Clark Builders’ total penalty, $15,000 was a fine, and $270,000 was to be paid to the Environmental Damages Fund, to be used to protect fish and/or fish habitat in the Province of Alberta.
By Dianne Saxe, Ontario Environmental Lawyer
Reprinted with permission from the Environmental Law and Litigation Blog.
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