October 2, 2003

CBC News   October 2/2003

Dump runoff killed fish: lawyer

Moncton:Ontario environmental lawyer Mark Mattson says runoff he collected from the former Moncton dump killed fish in the Petitcodiac River.

Mattson testified Wednesday at the trial against the Fredericton-based consultant, Gemtec Limited, who is charged with polluting the Petitcodiac River. The City of Moncton hired Gemtec to seal the old city dump a decade ago.

Following an investigation by a local environmental group, the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers, Environment Canada charged the consultants and the city under The Fisheries Act with allowing toxins to leak into the Petitcodiac River and endangering fish stocks.

The city pleaded guilty to the charges, and was fined $35,000 last week. Gemtec has chosen to face the charges in court.

From September 23, 2003: Green groups applaud pollution fine

Mattson testified that he helped the Riverkeepers with their investigation, and says leachate samples tested were so toxic, they killed fish within 96 hours in lab tests.

Mattson visited the site three years ago to collect samples of what he describes as smelly, reddish brown runoff. He told the court says it was flowing steadily into the Petitcodiac River in about 10 different places. He says the problem of toxic runoff was obvious, and something should have been done to stop it.

Mattson says all engineering and consulting companies should pay attention to the case. “This is significant because those who are giving the advice have to make sure that what they’re advising their clients, and what they’re paid to advise them on, doesn’t result in criminal liability.”

Petitcodiac Riverkeeper executive director Daniel Leblanc says this trial will lead other consulting firms to rethink how they operate. Leblanc says Gemtec should have paid closer attention to environmental regulations. “I’m very happy that Environment Canada has taken on this case and is now sending out the message to firms that there are laws in Canada and we intend to make people accountable to them.”

But Gemtec insists regulations were followed. The company’s lawyer suggests Mark Mattson’s samples may not be accurate, and that by the time the leachate travels the few dozen feet to the river, toxin levels are reduced. The trial continues Thursday.