On August 15, 2018, the Provincial Court of Alberta ordered the electrical utility, FortisAlberta, to pay a $300,000.00 fine for failing to report an oil spill in a timely manner. The spill related to potentially dangerous polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in west-central Alberta. While FortisAlberta reported the spill from one of its transformers in Hinton the investigation showed that the company was aware of the problem on October 19th the prior year.
The spill on October 19, 2015 in Hinton, Alberta resulted in approximately 325 litres of oil leaking from a transformer onto a concrete pad and into a crack that went down to a depth of five feet. FortisAlberta remediated the spill, but waited approximately seven months to report the leak. The investigation into the leak revealed the presence of PCBs.
PCBs are toxic industrial chemical substances. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, PCBs are prohibited from being released into the environment, as they are known to cause cancer in humans and are deadly to fish in small concentrations.
Fortis Alberta was charged with one count of violating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and one count of violating the polychlorinated biphenyls regulations. The $300,000.00 fine will be paid to the Environmental Damages Fund. Fines paid to the fund are directed to projects that benefit the environment. As a result of their actions, Fortis Alberta will also be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.
Written by: Paula Lombardi with the assistance of our student-at-law Julia Wolynska