IMP Group International Inc. appealed unsuccessfully from a Nova Scotia Minister of the Environment Order to study and remediate offsite groundwater contamination that it did not cause.
IMP had acquired its property in 1978. Before that time, previous owners, DCL and IEL, had contaminated it with perchlorethylene. When IMP discovered the contamination, it reported it to the Ministry and carried out on-site remediation recommended by its consultant. The consultant advised that the off-site plume of contaminant could not reasonably be eliminated and therefore recommended focusing remedial activity on removing the PCE at the source. Ministry staff rejected this advice, placing more importance on groundwater remediation, and not solely the health impacts on residents.
IMP appealed on the basis that the Minister’s order, imposing contaminated site liability offsite for contamination it did not cause, was unfair and unreasonable because a) there was no point performing off-site hydrogeological studies as the result would not change the remediation plan, and b) DCL and IEL should also have been named in the Order.
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia rejected their appeal and upheld the Order. The Minister’s decision to require the off-site remediation was within “a range of possible acceptable outcomes which are defensible in respect of the facts and the law.” It was reasonable of the Minister to reject IMP’s consultant’s conclusions that there would be no benefit from off-site monitoring and instead rely on the report prepared by Ministry staff. It was also reasonable of the Minister to not name DCL and IEL in the Order. The Minister has broad discretion to determine to whom an order should be directed. The Minister had information that DCL was defunct, and that IEL’s operations were insignificant in relation to the contamination.