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Ontario’s environmental penalties regime for spills is gathering steam. The final count for 2009 was 13 penalties totalling $112,143.20, most under the Environmental Protection Act. The highest penalty was $23,750.

Thirteen more penalties have already been issued in the first four months of 2010, totalling $77,003. For example, Tembec Enterprises was ordered to pay $24,200 for two spills of toxic effluent into the Kapuskasing River. The first was a huge bypass of 5053 cubic metres of effluent lethal to rainbow trout: (100% mortality in 100% concentration effluent within 96 hours). Six months later, Tembec spilled another 27.3 cubic metres  of even more toxic chip wash water. The chip water was lethal to both rainbow trout (100% mortality in 100% concentration within 96 hr) and Daphnia magna (100% mortality in 100% concentration within 48 hr).

Environmental penalties were originally advertised as “you spill, you pay”. In fact, EPs are being actively used for situations other than spills. Many EPs are for routine discharges that are toxic. For example, U.S. Steel Canada Inc.  was penalized $8500 when a grab sample showed acute toxicity test failure for Daphnia magna, in contravention of O.Reg. 214/95 (Effluent Monitoring And Effluent Limits — Iron And Steel Manufacturing Sector).  The sample result showed mean mortality of 100%.

EPs are also being used for failures to sample. For example, St. Clair Management Corporation received a penalty of $1750 for each of five months on which it discharged effluent without testing it for acute lethality, contravening its certificate of approval.

Thus, environmental penalties are starting to work, at least in the sense that illegal discharges are now being punished more frequently than they were before 2008.

Jackie Campbell and Dianne Saxe

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