The defendant, Priestly Demolition Inc. caused
chlorine gas to be discharged into the environment when an employee
operating a magnetic grapple attempted to move old pressurized gas
cylinders. During the move, a valve snapped releasing the gas. The
employee experienced a burning sensation and was taken to the
hospital where he received treatment and stayed overnight. The
employee has suffered no known long-term harm to his health.
The chlorine cloud released from the gas cylinder drifted across
the road and engulfed a neighbour. The neighbour experienced
itchiness and an overpowering smell of bleach and was taken to the
hospital for treatment. It also appears that the neighbour has not
suffered long-term harm to her health. Priestly Demolition
Inc. failed to notify the Ministry of the Environment and
Climate Change ("MOECC") of the spill. The neighbour
initially phoned the fire department who ultimately notified the
MOECC of the spill.
At trial, Priestly argued that it had acted on the
reasonable belief that the compressed gas cylinders were corroded
and that they were empty. This argument was rejected because the
employee who moved the cylinders had consulted with the metal
recovery manager on how to deal with them and the manager had
inspected them the day before. There was uncontested evidence at
trial that it was unsafe to use a magnetic grapple to move a
compressed gas cylinder that contains material.
Priestly also unsuccessfully argued that it should not
be charged for the spill because the scrap yard is owned by a
company called Stewart Salvage Ltd. and not by
Priestly. This was rejected because Priestly
rents the property from Stewart Salvage Ltd., was
responsible for the operation of the scrap yard and filled out a
WSIB form relating to the incident.
A fine of $40,000 was issued for the discharge along with a fine
of $25,000 for failing to notify the MOECC. The Crown appealed the
fine for the second charge on the notification issue and on appeal
the fine was raised to $30,000.
Priestly also appealed the decision on the basis of unreasonable
delay contrary to s. 11(b) of the Charter. The court found
no breach as Priestly is a corporation and as such must show that
the delay cause prejudice to trial fairness.
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