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Following a guilty plea in December 2015, Essroc Canada Inc., a cement manufacturer, based in Picton Bay, Ontario, was fined a total of $200,000 plus the 25% victim fine surcharge (an additional $50,000). This was for causing a discharge of dust into the natural environment and for failing to forthwith notify the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (“MOECC”) of the discharge.

The investigation conducted by the MOECC, which eventually led to the charges, was triggered by complaints from area residents. Essroc notified the MOECC of visible dust emissions being emitted from its facility on April 5, 2013. However, it did so about 3 1/2 hours after the dust emissions were discovered.

Later that same day, Essroc made a second call to the MOECC with complete spill information. During the second call to the MOECC, Essroc reported that the discharge had continued for approximately 7 hours. The delayed reporting “flies in the face” of the reporting obligations set out in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), requiring that persons in control of the contaminant to notify government agencies “forthwith” and do everything practicable to remediate the spill and restore the natural environment. A contaminant is broadly defined to include dust.

The EPA states that “Every person having control of a pollutant that is spilled and every person who spills or causes or permits a spill of a pollutant shall forthwith notify … the Ministry.” There are no minimum reportable quantities.

This case an important reminder to companies on the importance of reporting any spills immediately to the MOECC.

This was the second major fine for Essroc in 2015 for dust emissions. In April 2015, Essroc pleaded guilty to discharging dust into the natural environment and for failing to ensure that noise emissions complied with its Environmental Compliance Approval. The total fine in that case was $350,000 plus the Victim Fine Surcharge.

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