Compost maker Scott Environmental Group Limited has been fined $125,000 plus the 25% victim fine surcharge, for breaching multiple conditions of its Certificate of Approval. Scott (operating as Norterra Organics in Kingston) pleaded guilty to accepting too much daily waste, storing more than its limit of 100 tonnes of biosolids per day, and storing biosolids outside, contrary to ministry requirements to have all handling done indoors to control and reduce odours.
On several occasions, the company accepted biosolids (sewage sludge) that exceeded the allowable metal limits as set out in the Environmental Protection Act. As a result, it produced and sold more than a thousand tonnes of contaminated compost, which in turn contaminated several properties where it was used.
The Agreed Statement of Facts from the court is as follows:
“SCOTT ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP LIMITED
AGREED STATEMENT OF FACT
1. Scott Environmental Group Limited (“Scott”) is a provincially incorporated company. It was in existence at all material times to this prosecution and is currently in existence.
2. Scott is a privately owned company that provides industrial and environmental services to the industrial, commercial, environmental, institutional and municipal sectors in south-eastern Ontario. Scott’s offices are located at 650 Fortune Crescent, with operations located at 633 Fortune Crescent in the City of Kingston, in the Province of Ontario. This location operates under Certificate of Approval #7462-7KGNSX issued under the Environmental Protection Act R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19, as amended.
3. Scott owns, Norterra Organics Ltd., a provincially incorporated business which operates an organic waste site producing merchantable compost. The Norterra facility and operation is located at 2069 Joyceville Road, in the City of Kingston, in the Province of Ontario. This location is a 6.25 hectare Waste Disposal Site (Processing) that operates under Certificate of Approval # 4875-7F4N5K issued under the Environmental Protection Act R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19, as amended. The Certificate of Approval provided for the establishment and operation of the waste disposal site and the composting of solid non-hazardous waste. The operation has a 1000 m² fully enclosed waste receiving building, a weigh scale, a 4840 m² asphalt pad where the composting process is undertaken, a 45 m² office building and three 68,100 litre (15,000 IG) storage tanks. Compost that is produced at the Norterra Organics facility is then sold to the public for both residential and commercial purposes.
4. The Certificate of Approval authorizes the use of the Norterra site for the composting of solid non-hazardous waste that must meet certain prescribed limits, specifically metal criteria, that are set in Schedule “B” of the Certificate of Approval. The Certificate of Approval defines “Bio-Solids” as – “Means de-watered biosolids from sewage treatment plants, food processing facilities, paper producing facilities and like facilities and which do not exceed the metals criteria presented in Schedule “B”. The Certificate of Approval requires that the owner sample and analyze all new sources of material prior to receiving the non-hazardous waste to ensure that it complies with the parameters and criteria set out in Schedule “B”. The Certificate of Approval similarly re quires that any unacceptable quality waste or waste that does meet the parameters and criteria set out in Schedule “B” must be immediately rejected.
(a) Brockville & Ottawa Biosolids – April 2009
5. On April 3, 2009, the Ministry of the Environment (“MOE”) staff were contacted by officials at the City of Ottawa. The MOE was advised that their municipal biosolids were sent and delivered to Norterra Organics Ltd. that exceeded the Schedule “B” limits for copper of 100 ppm. The company that is contracted to haul the waste for the City of Ottawa (Third High Farms) is required to submit copies of the Certificates of Approvals to the City for facilities that receive their waste. During the period between March 11- 30, 2009, five loads of waste were picked up and shipped to the Norterra facility.
6. Assurances were provided by Scott to the MOE that the City of Ottawa waste material was diverted from the Norterra facility shortly after the MOE was notified of the shipment. The material was not in fact diverted and was in the production process for compost at the Norterra facility. Ultimately, compost material was diverted from the Norterra facility to a waste disposal site in Oshawa that could accept the material on April 30 and May 1, 2009.
7. Norterra Organics Ltd. prepared a report dated May 1, 2009, that confirmed to the MOE that biosolids were received at the facility from both the City of Ottawa and City of Brockville (total of 415.38 tonnes) between January 19, 2009 through March 30, 2009. Testing and analysis for the biosolids confirmed that the waste exceeded the allowable metal limits in Schedule “B” for Copper, Mercury, Molybdenum, Zinc and Selenium. The report also concluded that the biosolids had been processed in the usual manner and segregated at the Norterra Organics facility starting February 27, 2009 and ending April 8, 2009. The compost material was subsequently diverted from the Norterra facility to an appropriate waste facility in Oshawa.
8. The matter was referred to the Investigations and Enforcement Branch of the MOE. It was determined during the course of investigation that:
i. That Scott Environmental Group Limited during the period of January 19, 2009 and ending on or about March 30, 2009 at 2069 Joyceville Road,, Lot. 19, Concession 3, City of Kingston, County of Frontenac, did commit the offence of failing to comply with Condition 10.3(c) of Provisional Certificate of Approval # 4875-7F4N5K by failing to immediately reject any waste of unacceptable quality, namely exceeding Schedule “B” metal maximum concentrations, contrary to Section 186(3) of the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19, as amended.
(b) Gananoque Biosolids
9. Pursuant to a contract dated, November 13, 2009, with the Town of Gananoque, Scott contracted to remove and dispose of biosolid sludge from cell #1 of its sewage lagoons. The lagoon had been operating continuously for approximately 44 years without any accumulated sludge removal. At the time of tendering for the contract, the Town of Gananoque provided an analysis of the contents of the lagoon. A Certificate of Analysis dated August 1, 2007 that was provided by the Town of Gananoque in the tendering document established that there were levels of cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, molybdenum, nickel, zinc & mercury exceeded the Schedule “B” limits (Ex. 13).
10. Concerns were raised with Scott related to the issue of the metal content of the biosolids. Scott represented to the Town of Gananoque that the material could be treated by diluting the biosolids with an appropriate quantity of carbon prior to shipment to the Norterra facility.
10. Scott started work on the project on or about June 2010. Invoices indicate that sludge from the Gananoque lagoon started to be received at the Norterra facility beginning on June 21, 2010, until August 3, 2010. (Ex. 7) Scott removed approximately 6009 tonnes of sludge from the lagoon, of which approximately 1400 – 1600 tonnes were received at the Norterra facility. Scott invoiced the Town of Gananoque $1.477 million for the work. (Ex. 6)
11. The following contraventions investigated by the Investigations and Enforcement Branch relate to the manner in which the sludge was removed and handled by Scott during the course of the contract with the Town of Gananoque:
i. Counts 1 & 2: On July 19, 2010 the MOE was advised that material was being dumped onto the ground behind Scott’s facility at 633 Fortune Crescent, Kingston. MOE Abatement staff attended at the premises on July 20, 2010 and conducted a site inspection. Abatement staff confirmed that that sewage waste (biosolids) from the Gananoque sewage lagoons was being dumped/transferred on the property in the back outside loading area contrary to Section 14.2 of their Certificate of Approval – which mandates that the owner shall ensure that all activities related to the unloading, loading, processing, transfer, storage of waste shall be conducted indoors at all times.
Company officials were advised to cease this activity, immediately clean the site and move the material inside the plant. The MOE Abatement Officer was asked by the President of Scott if the activity could continue for 3 – 4 more days to complete the job. This request was denied.
On July 21, 2010, the MOE Abatement Officer returned to the site and conformed that additional biosolids had been dumped outside the building and materials were observed on the pavement from the loading area. Company officials at the site indicated that there was no room inside the facility.
ii. Count 3: In excess of 1600 tonnes of biosolids were received at Norterra Organics from the Gananoque lagoons between June 21 and August 3, 2010. Sampling results that were obtained from Scott indicate that some Schedule “B” metals were not tested and that several of the metals exceeded their Schedule “B” parameters for the Certificate of Approval issued to Norterra Organics. Prior to accepting the biosolids, Scott received sampling analysis dated May 25, 2010 for in situ material (not dewatered) which indicated that there were no exceedences for Schedule “B” metals. However, subsequent testing once the sludge was dewatered, dated June 30, 2010, confirmed that Schedule “B” parameters were exceeded for the following metals – cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, zinc and selenium (Ex. 11).
Scott accepted this waste at Norterra when it was required to immediately reject any unacceptable waste in accordance with Section 10.3(c) of the Certificate of Approval.
The material which was processed into compost at the Norterra facility was sold commercially to one large purchaser and to several residents, in smaller quantities. Subsequent testing has confirmed that the compost that was sold and used by the purchasers exceeded the Schedule “B” parameters.
Counts 4 & 5: Documents (weigh scale tickets) provided to the MOE confirmed that on July 5, 2010, Norterra received 168.7 tonnes of biosolids from the Gananoque lagoon project. This was in contravention of Section 11.1(a) of the Norterra Certificate of Approval which limits the amount of waste that Norterra can receive on a daily basis to a maximum aggregate total of 100 tonnes per day of liquid industrial and hazardous waste.
Similarly, on July 18, 2010 Norterra received 132.8 tonnes of biosolids from the Gananoque lagoon project.
iii. Count 6: Based on weigh scale tickets and documents provided to the MOE it was determined that between June 21 and August 3, 2010 biosolids were received and stored at Norterra contrary to Section 14.4 of its Certificate of Approval, which states that biosolids which can not be incorporated into windrows on the day of receipt must not be accepted, or if already accepted must be removed from the site. On June 28, 2010, the plant manager had contacted the MOE seeking approval to do this and his request was denied.
12. Scott cooperated with the MOE throughout its investigation. It has not prior convictions under the Environmental Protection Act or other related environmental legislation.”