Teck Metals Ltd. ordered to pay a $2.2 million fine for unlawful deposit of effluent into the Columbia River
January 10, 2023 – Rossland, British Columbia
Canadians value clean water and a sustainable environment. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers strive to ensure that businesses and individuals comply with laws and regulations that protect Canada’s natural environment.
On January 10, 2023, in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, Teck Metals Ltd. was ordered to pay a total of $2.2 million after earlier pleading guilty to two charges laid under the federal Fisheries Act and one charge laid under the provincial Environmental Management Act. The charges stem from a 2019 release of effluent into the Columbia River. The federal fine of $2 million will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. In relation to the provincial charges, Teck Metal Ltd. was ordered to pay a total fine of $200,000.
On February 26, 2019, Teck Metal Ltd. employees reported a spill of low pH effluent from the company’s Trail Operations in Trail, British Columbia to Environment and Climate Change Canada and Emergency Management British Columbia. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers conducted a thorough investigation and determined that the discharge of approximately 2.5 million liters of low-pH effluent into the Columbia River resulted from numerous operational errors. The company’s failure to exert due diligence contributed to the duration and extent of the spill. In this case, the low pH effluent was caused by a leak of an acidic solution from the company’s fertilizer operations in Warfield, BC. Much of the discharged effluent was below pH 4, which is deleterious, or harmful to fish.
In addition to the Fisheries Act offences, the company pleaded guilty to having contravened s. 120(6) of the British Columbia Environmental Management Act by failing to comply with their permit, which specifies acceptable pH levels for discharges and prohibits acutely lethal effluent discharges.
As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.
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Areas where Teck Metals Ltd. failed to exert due diligence include: inadequate training, lack of protocols and procedures, lack of awareness and knowledge, and non functioning equipment.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish.
The Columbia River is “water frequented by fish” as defined under the Fisheries Act. The river contains mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, walleye, brook trout, bull trout, cutthroat trout, white sturgeon, sculpin, redside shiner, as well as other species of fish.
Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Fund helps ensure that court-awarded penalties are used to support projects that restore the natural environment and conserve wildlife. The Fund receives and redirects the money from court penalties and settlements, usually investing in areas where the environmental damage occurred.
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