On November 6, 2014, the Alberta Provincial Court ordered
Norellco Contractors Ltd. (Norellco) to pay $185,000 after Norellco
pleaded guilty to one count under the Fisheries
Act.iThis case is significant in
that it represents a sizable contribution to the Environmental
Defence Fund, shows that chlorinated water can be considered a
contaminant and is a reminder of the multiple jurisdictions that
cover discharges to water.
In Canada, municipal, provincial and federal levels of
government have overlapping responsibilities for managing
discharges to water.
regulate discharges to waters within provincial
boundaries.ii This can include discharges to both
artificial and intermittent watercourses.iii
authority to enact sewer-use by-laws to regulate the quality and
quantity of substances discharged into their sewer
systems.iv A violation of a municipal sewer-use by-law
can result in an inspection by local by-law enforcement officers,
compliance program action or prosecution.
Federal—At the federal level, the
Fisheries Act prohibits discharges of any
"deleterious substances" into waters frequented by
fish.v The federal government has jurisdiction to
prosecute discharges into sewers when that discharge ultimately
impacts Canadian fisheries waters.
A discharge into sewers could be subject to compliance action
under municipal by-laws. A discharge into sewers could be subject
to provincial government prosecution when that discharge then flows
into waters within provincial boundaries, or depending on the
definition of water in the legislation, portions of municipal storm
sewer systems. The same discharge could also be subject to federal
government prosecution when that discharge flows into waters
frequented by fish.
On November 6, 2014, Norellco pleaded guilty to an offence under
the Fisheries Act for releasing chlorinated water into
local sewer drains. The drains led to the Sturgeon River, which is
home to a number of fish species. The company was ordered to pay
$185,000 and $180,000 of that penalty was credited toward the
Environmental Damages Fund to promote the proper management and
protection of fish and fish habitat in Alberta.
We find three significant aspects of this penalty:
It underlines the multiple jurisdictions that regulate and
protect water. Here, the discharge was to a municipal drain which
resulted in federal charges.
It is significant because of the size of the contribution to
the Environmental Damages Fund ($180,000 of $185,000).
Many may not realize that chlorinated water (including potable
drinking water) may be considered a contaminant when discharged
ii See for example, under the Ontario Water Resources
Act, section 1: "discharge", when used as a verb,
includes add, deposit, emit or leak and, when used as a noun,
includes addition, deposit, emission or leak." Also, under
Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement
Act, section 1: "release" includes to spill,
discharge, dispose of, spray, inject, inoculate, abandon, deposit,
leak, seep, pour, emit, empty, throw, dump, place and
iii See for example, under the Ontario Water
Resources Act, section 1: "waters" means a well,
lake, river, pond, spring, stream, reservoir, artificial
watercourse, intermittent watercourse, ground water or other water
or watercourse". Also, under Alberta's Environmental
Protection and Enhancement Act, section 1: "water"
means all water on or under the surface of the ground", and
under Alberta's Water Act, section 1: "water" means
all water on or under the surface of the ground, whether in liquid
or solid state".
iv See for example, Ontario's Municipal Act,
2001, section 11 and Alberta's Municipal Government
Act, section 7.
v See Fisheries Act, section 36(3).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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