The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is aggressively prosecuting blasting firms for flyrock incidents that occurred years before the Supreme Court decided, last fall, that flyrock did, after all, have to be reported to the MOE. And now companies are being convicted and fined for discharging the flyrock at all, not just for failing to report it to the MOE. This is the next step on the slippery slope that we feared. If every flyrock discharge that flies through the air, and does damage, is a “pollution” offence, what else is? And what isn’t?
The latest defendant is Austin Powder Ltd., which has been fined $130,000 after pleading guilty to discharging fly rock from a quarry blasting site and to failing to report the flyrock incidents, contrary to the Environmental Protection Act.
Austin Powder Ltd. is a New Brunswick blasting company with an Ontario office. In 2009, Austin Powder Ltd. provided quarry blasting services to a company that owns and operates a licensed limestone quarry near Arnprior, Ontario.
On July 20 and 23, 2009, blasting fly rock was discharged beyond the control area of 200 metres. In the first incident, a small rock struck a worker at a neighbouring business on the arm. In the second incident, rocks were observed flying well beyond the control area. A scale house located 230 metres from the blast was struck by a number of rocks. Two vehicles held at a controlled stop along nearby Young Road on the edge of the quarry property located about 300 metres from the blast were also struck by rock resulting in extensive damage. There were no injuries. The rocks were not forthwith reported to the ministry; at the time, the blasting industry reasonably believed that they did not have to.
The MOE investigator decided that the control zone should have been 500 metres instead of 200.