On December 20, 2016, the federal government obtained a fine of $975,000 for improper handling of electrical equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) against a Montreal property management firm. The Montreal firm and seven associated companies pled guilty to a combined 52 charges.
As is typical in federal environmental cases, the fines will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. The offenders will also be required to publish an article on the facts related to the violations and develop procedures to manage their contaminated electrical equipment for all their buildings. The company will also have to provide training for their managers and staff. As with all convicted persons under federal environmental legislation, they will be entered into the Environmental Offenders Registry.
PCBs were once widely used for dielectric and coolant fluids in electrical apparatuses, carbon copy paper and heat transfer fluids. Because of their longevity, they remain in use, though they are no longer manufactured given their environmental toxicity as persistent organic pollutants. They also have endocrine disruption effects and are neurotoxic.
The offences fell under the PCB regulations of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The PCB regulations set deadlines for ending the use of PCBs in particular concentrations, eliminating all PCBs and equipment containing PCBs which are currently in storage, and limiting the period of time PCBs can be stored before being destroyed. The regulations also address better management of PCBs that remain in use, until their eventual elimination, to prevent contamination of dielectric fluids and dispersion of PBCs in small quantities into other liquids.
This prosecution is a stern reminder that those operating environmentally sensitive equipment or facilities must take care and ensure compliance with the applicable environmental laws.