September 23, 2003

CBC

Green groups applaud pollution fine

Moncton:The charges were laid by the federal government after the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers group carried out an investigation of their own.

Long after the City of Moncton’s mountainous, overflowing landfill site was closed, toxins continued to leak into the Petitcodiac River and its tributaries.

The Riverkeepers conducted an investigation – testing the water and gathering documents – and based on that evidence, Environment Canada laid charges. Originally, the City of Moncton pleaded not guilty, but on Monday changed its plea at the last minute and accepted responsibility for the pollution.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is calling the court fine a victory for environmental groups. The council’s Janice Harvey says if hadn’t been for the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers, the problem might never have surfaced. “What it stresses is the importance of citizen vigilance and citizen involvement in environmental concerns in their community.”

Meinhart Doelle specializes in environmental law at Dalhousie University, and agrees local lobby groups can make the federal government take notice. “It’s one of the first indications that I’ve come across that the federal government is taking the Fisheries Act seriously when it comes to municipalities.”

Mark Mattson is with the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper group and says this court ruling has far-reaching implications. “The decision really sends a clear message across Canada not just in Moncton or on the east coast but across Canada to municipalities and others who control landfills that they need to meet Canada’s environmental laws.”

The court has given the city 18 months to clean up the pollution in the river.

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