The Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal has dismissed an appeal from an individual ordered
to clean up the historic contaminated site of a bankrupt
company in Brighton, Ontario.
Bruce Cooey’s father owned Cooey Metal Products
Ltd., which owned and operated an factory in Brighton,
Ontario, between 1941 and 1989. The site was contaminated, the
company became insolvent and the site was abandoned. The
family’s lawyer, Simon Morris Rosenfeld, sat on the
board from 1982 until the company was dissolved in 1994. Mr. Cooey
ended up as the registered owner of the land, but without the money
to clean it up.
In 2000, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment tried to force
Bruce Cooey to clean up the site. After an exhaustive review of his
(lack of) finances, they abandoned the effort as futile. By 2009,
the site had still not been cleaned up, and the MOE issued a new
clean up order. This time the order was addressed to Bruce
Cooey and to the lawyer, Simon Rosenfeld, who had been a director
15 years before.
In 2011, the Ministry agreed to withdraw the order against Mr. Rosenfeld
“on the basis that Mr. Rosenfeld is not involved in the
ownership, management or control of the Site, as is required for
the issuance of an order under section 157.1 of the
EPA.” Mr. Cooey continued with his appeal against
the Order, apparently representing himself. The ERT has now
dismissed his appeal, on the grounds that he failed to comply with
their procedural directions.
So now the Ministry has a clean up Order in force against
Mr. Cooey. But if he doesn’t have the money to comply,
what’s next? Will they prosecute him for not complying with
the order, and add fines to what he owes? Will they put him in jail
for not having the money to clean up his father’s mess? (Do
we still have debtor’s prison in Ontario?) And then what will
they do about the site?
We need a coherent policy for dealing with contaminated sites
owned by individuals or organizations who don’t have the
money to clean them up. And we don’t have one.
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