The Citizens Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution

This guide will provide you with some of the knowledge required to investigate pollution and to force polluters to comply with environmental laws. Private environmental investigations can play an important role in stopping pollution, by providing you with solid evidence that you can take to the media, to government regulators, and if necessary, to court.

The guide describes what you can do to hold polluters responsible for their actions, including:

  • obtaining documentary evidence
  • collecting physical evidence
  • comparing laboratory results with pollution regulations
  • making a formal complaint to government regulators
  • informing the media about the problem
  • enlisting the help of experts
  • and as a last resort, launching a private prosecution.

Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction

1.1 The Enviromental Bureau of Investigation
1.2 The Citizens Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution
1.3 Steps to an environmental investigation

2.0 Where to find pollution in your community, and what pollutants to look for

2.1 Sewage treatment plants and septic systems
2.2 Landfill sites and contaminated lands
2.3 Mining activities
2.4 Pulp and paper mills
2.5 Chemical companies
2.6 Petroleum companies
2.7 Radioactive sites
2.8 Agricultural activities

3.0 Sources of information on pollution

3.1 Local environmental groups
3.2 Experts
3.3 Field trips
3.4 The Internet

4.0 Obtaining documentary evidence

4.1 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests
4.2 Remedial Action Plan program (RAP reports)
4.3 Certificates of Approval (C of A)
4.4 Monitoring data
4.5 Municipal-Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA)
4.6 National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI)
4.7 Ontario’s Environmental Registry under
the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR)

4.8 Inspection results and non-compliance reports
4.9 Certificates of Incorporation
4.10 Land titles
4.11 Interviews

5.0 Collecting physical evidence

5.1 Air emissions
5.2 Liquid discharges
5.3 Trespassing
5.4 Note taking
5.5 Chain of custody
5.6 Analysis and testing
5.6.1 Chemical analysis
5.6.2 Bioassay testing
5.7 Visual evidence
5.7.1 Videotaping
5.7.2 Photography

6.0 Laws and limits on pollution

6.1 Canadian environmental laws and standards
6.2 Benchmarks, guidelines, standards, and objectives

7.0 Making a complaint

7.1 Informing the offender
7.2 Making a formal complaint
7.3 Environmental Penalties
7.4 The Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR)

8.0 Media relations

8.1 Style
8.2 Press release
8.3 Timing
8.4 Media interviews

9.0 Steps to a private prosecution

9.1 Preparation of the brief
9.2 Laying of the information
9.3 Issuing a summons
9.4 Serving the accused
9.5 First appearance
9.6 Preliminary inquiry
9.7 Trial
9.8 Decision
9.9 Speaking to sentence
9.10 Appeals and judicial review

10.0 Conclusion


A Example of an FOI request
B Lists of Toxic Substances
C Example of field notes
D Pollution standards
E Example of a violation table
F Example of a press release
G Writing an information
H Contacts