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A recent Alberta case casts some light on the meaning of waste “storage”.

Custom Environmental Services (CESL) sorts and recycles contaminated material, including PCBs. PCB material is brought to the CESL, sorted, cleaned, perhaps processed and placed in containers. Once a truckload has accumulated, it is transported to a disposal site. PCB material is present at the CESL site, for an average of four to six weeks.

There was a long dispute between CESL and Environment Canada over whether the PCB material was “stored”  during this process, so as to fall within the federal Storage of PCB Materials Regulations (“Storage Regulations”) under CEPA, 1999. CESL claimed it was exempt, because the Storage Regulations “do not apply in respect of the handling, offering for transport or transporting of PCB material governed by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act” (at s. 3(4)). The TDGA defines “handling” to include “storage in the course of transportation”. Eventually, Environment Canada ordered CESL to comply with the Storage Regulations; CESL challenged the order.

Held in Minister of the Environment (Canada) v. Custom Environmental Services Ltd., Gavin Scott and Brian Winters: CESL is a “PCB Storage Site”  and must comply with the Storage Regulations. CESL was “storing” the PCBs, not merely “transporting” them, once they were unpacked. “Store… relates merely to the manner in which the PCB material must be kept or ‘stored’ “.  “Storage” is not limited to any particular length of time, purpose or intent.

The TDG regulations mean “storage that is necessarily incidental to transport”.  Holding on to material until it is economical to ship it is a business decision, not a necessary aspect of transportation. It would be contrary to the intention of the  regulations to allow CESL to accumulate PCBs without properly tracking and safekeeping them.

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