Sentencing in landmark environmental law case by Environment Canada
Gemtec Ltd. and company official Robert Lutes were sentenced in Provincial Court in Moncton, New Brunswick today of violating the pollution prevention provisions of the Federal Fisheries Act. The charges relate to the deposit of acutely lethal landfill leachate that entered the Petitcodiac Watershed from the former Moncton Landfill Site.
Both Gemtec, an environmental consulting company, and Mr. Lutes, a Gemtec principal and project manager, were convicted on April 26, 2006 by Judge Yvette Finn after a five-week trail. Judge Finn fined the company $5,000 and Robert Lutes $1,000 for their involvement in the offences. In addition to the fine, Gemtec Ltd. must contribute $10,000 to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. Mr. Lutes must also contribute $1,000 to the Fund. The Fund, which is administered by Environment Canada, is used to restore environmental damage or to prevent environmental damage from occurring. Finally, Gemtec has been ordered to pay $10,000 to the Jonathan Creek Committee, a local environmental organization, while Mr. Lutes must pay $1,000 to the committee.
This case is a landmark in environmental protection. These convictions mark the first time that an engineering consultant company has been convicted of providing advice to a client that resulted in the client violating federal environmental law. This case has demonstrated that consultants who fail to incorporate environmental compliance into their advice to clients can and may be held accountable for their role in any resultant environmental offence.
Charges were laid by Environment Canada on March 12, 2002, against Gemtec Ltd., Gemtec Project Engineer Robert Lutes, the City of Moncton, and Moncton City Engineer Geoff Greenough after a year-long investigation by Environment Canada Enforcement Officers. The investigation was initiated as a result of a complaint made to Environment Canada by the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers, a local environmental organization.
Landfill leachate is a liquid substance that percolates from the ground as a result of deposited garbage mixing with rainwater and melting snow.
On September 23, 2003, the City of Moncton pleaded guilty and charges against Mr. Greenough were withdrawn by the Crown. The City paid a $35,000 fine and was ordered to take remedial measures to reduce the leachate flow from the landfill site.
Gemtec Ltd. is an engineering consulting company that was hired by the City of Moncton to provide closure options for the former Moncton landfill. Gemtec Ltd. was also contracted by the City of Moncton to implement the closure plan that it had recommended.
Environment Canada investigates alleged offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Fisheries Act, in order to ensure that companies, government employees and the general public comply with legislation and regulations that protect Canada’s environment.
For further information, please contact:
Gary Greene Environmental Enforcement Environment Canada (902) 426-6619