January 5, 2004

Pollution charge doesn’t stick to Gemtec
by CBC News

Moncton:Off on a technicality: the judge presiding over the case of an engineering consulting firm accused of polluting Moncton’s Jonathan Creek has thrown the charge out of court.

The City of Moncton had hired Fredericton-based Gemtec to help seal the old landfill site on the bank of the Petitcodiac River a decade ago. The environmental group, Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, discovered toxins from the dump were still leaking into the river, and the group took that information to Environment Canada officials.

On Feb. 8, 2002, Environment Canada charged the City of Moncton and Gemtec with violating section 36 (3) of the Fisheries Act, prohibiting the discharge of a deleterious substance into a waterway frequented by fish.

The City of Moncton pleaded guilty and was fined $35,000. That left only Gemtec to defend itself against the charge, but Provincial Court Judge Yvette Finn ruled on Friday that some of the evidence was gathered after the statue of limitations had run out.

“It has nothing to do with the overall evidence or whether the landfill itself was properly secured or the discharges that were going out were toxic. It has only to do with a technicality,” says a disappointed Daniel LeBlanc of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper.

In a news release, LeBlanc says Gemtec lawyers “argued that Environment Canada would have known about the alleged offences taking place at the Moncton landfill site as early as 1997, and therefore waited too long to proceed with the charges.”

The Crown has 30 days in which to appeal the decision.

“The parties have been through quite a bit of expense and time and I would think that, hopefully, there’ll be a period of reflection,” says Gemtec lawyer Robert Kenny.