University of British Columbia fined $1.2 million and CIMCO Refrigeration fined $800,000 for the 2014 release of ammonia-laden water into a tributary of the Fraser River
June 25, 2019 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Environment and Climate Change Canada
On June 21, the University of British Columbia and CIMCO Refrigeration were sentenced for offences committed in violation of the Fisheries Act, related to a 2014 ammonia-laden water release that ended up in a tributary of the Fraser River.
CIMCO Refrigeration was fined $800,000 after pleading guilty to depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into an area that may enter water frequented by fish.
The University of British Columbia was fined $1.2 million after being found guilty of the following offences:
- depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek);
- depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into places that may enter waters frequented by fish (in this case, a storm sewer and a ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek); and
- failing to report the incident in a timely manner.
In addition to the fine, the University was also ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality at the outfall where the release occurred.
The University has filed an appeal against these convictions.
The fines will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.
On September 12, 2014, Environment and Climate Change Canada was contacted regarding an ammonia odour at an outfall ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The source of ammonia was identified as coming from a refrigeration plant at Thunderbird Arena at the University of British Columbia.
CIMCO Refrigeration and the University were completing repairs of the refrigeration system and used a negative pressure device, known as a Venturi, to purge residual ammonia vapours from the system. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall, through a ditch, and into Booming Ground Creek, which is a tributary of the Fraser River.
Officers and park rangers found approximately 70 dead fish in Booming Ground Creek in the two days following the discharge. The level of ammonia deposited in the water in the storm drain and ditch was analyzed and found to be harmful to fish.
As a result of this conviction, both organizations’ names will be added to the Environmental Offender’s Registry.
- The Fraser River is identified by the Government of British Columbia as being part of a classified water system with a high fisheries value.
- 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.
- Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and it provides a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our environment.
- The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.
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