June 28, 2006

Moncton Times & Transcript 

River pollution costs firm $25,000
by Craig Babstock

A consulting firm and its former principal engineer have been fined for polluting the Petitcodiac River and Jonathan Creek.

In a written decision, Moncton provincial court Judge Yvette Finn fined Fredericton-based Gemtec $5,000 and gave the company six months to pay. Gemtec was also ordered to pay $10,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund, which is administered by Environment Canada.

The company was also ordered to pay a $10,000 penalty to the Jonathan Creek Committee, to be used exclusively for the purpose of restoring and enhancing Jonathan Creek.

Robert G. Lutes was fined $1,000, ordered to pay $1,000 to the environmental fund and another $1,000 to the creek committee.

The two defendants were charged with two counts of unlawfully depositing a deleterious substance into water inhabited by fish in 2000 and 2001. The company had been hired by the city more than a decade ago, to come up with a plan to close the old dump on the banks of the Petitcodiac River.

The judge fined them on one of the charges, but gave them an absolute discharge on the other.

The City of Moncton and head engineer Geoff Greenough were also charged, but the city pleaded guilty in September 2003 and the charge against Greenough was dropped. The city was fined $35,000 and ordered to implement a remediation plan to stop the leachate from entering the river system.

That work has not yet been done, so it’s unknown how much it will cost taxpayers.

Gemtec and Lutes pleaded not guilty to the charges and went to trial, but Finn found them guilty in April.

The defence had argued that Gemtec’s plan was only a starting point for dealing with the leachate, not an all-inclusive solution. They also argued it would be impossible to contain all the leachate that was flowing from the dump to the river.

The prosecutor accused the company of using “1950s environmental management” and said Gemtec just let the leachate flow into the river, where it would be diluted.

The judge ruled that while Gemtec didn’t create the environmental hazard, it didn’t do everything it could to stop it. Also, a local scientist twice warned company officials the plan didn’t comply with the Fisheries Act, but the plan was not changed.

In the end, Finn said Gemtec and Lutes failed to act with due diligence and were “willfully blind” to the requirements of the Fisheries Act.