September 18, 2000
SIERRA LEGAL DEFENCE FUND
Hamilton Environmentalist Succeeds in Private Prosecution – City of Hamilton fined $450,000 for toxic waste dump HAMILTON: Today, Justice of the Peace Wendy Casey of the Ontario Court (Provincial Division) in Hamilton convicted the City of Hamilton for violating the federal Fisheries Act. With legal representation from the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) and investigative assistance from the Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI), the private prosecution was commenced in 1999 by local resident, Lynda Lukasik.
The City of Hamilton was also convicted of violating Ontario’s Water Resources Act as a result of a separate charge relating to the same contaminated site and laid by the Investigation and Enforcement Branch (IEB) of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment. (MOE).
The City pleaded guilty to both of these charges and was fined $150,000 for the MOE charge and $300,000 for the privately prosecuted Fisheries Act charges, for a total of $450,000 in fines. Pursuant to the mandatory fine-splitting provisions of the Fisheries Act, one half the fine, ($150,000) was awarded to Lynda Lukasik who commenced the Fisheries Act private prosecution.
The agreed statement of facts read into Court established that during June, July and August, 1999, on six separate days, PCB and ammonia contaminated leachate was discharged into Red Hill Creek from the City’s Rennie Street public works yard. These discharges were acutely toxic to aquatic life and all of the test animals were killed in lab tests. Red Hill Creek flows into Hamilton Harbour which is a heavily polluted “Area of Concern” under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S. Both ammonia and PCBs have been identified as contaminants of concern in the harbour.
Lynda Lukasik, the recipient of the $150,000 award under the Fisheries Act, will use the money to pay the expenses connected with the prosecution and to set up a fund for environmental investigative and advocacy work in the Hamilton area, including Red Hill Creek. Lynda said: “this case should encourage environmentalists across Canada to protect our waters by sampling at contaminated sites and commencing private prosecutions under the Fisheries Act.”
Doug Chapman, the SLDF lawyer who handled the case, said, “this private prosecution has resulted in the largest fine for an environmental crime ever levied against a municipality in Canada. It will certainly send a message to other polluters that they risk severe penalties if they continue to destroy our environment.”
Mark Mattson of EBI, who conducted the sampling at the badly contaminated site and along with SLDF brought the evidence to the attention of IEB, stated, “this prosecution is just the beginning of our commitment towards ensuring that environmental laws are enforced in the Hamilton region. We expect that our current and future investigations in the region will also result in clean-ups.”
August 29, 2000
City of Hamilton Charged with Water Pollution Offences
Today in Hamilton in provincial court the City of Hamilton appeared for the first time on charges brought by the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE). Ministry officials charged the city with offenses dating back to the summer of 1999 for violations of the Ontario Water Resources Act for discharges from the city-owned Rennie Street landfill. The discharges into the Red Hill Creek include PCB, ammonia, and pesticides.
The Ministry of Environment’s charges follow charges brought against the City by local environmental activist Lynda Lukasik in November of 1999 for pollution of the same water body from the same toxic landfill. The private charges are based on evidence of pollution discharges into Red Hill Creek collected by local citizens, McMaster University, and Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI) over a period of years. Red Hill Creek is the last remaining natural creek flowing directly into Hamilton Harbour. Ms. Lukasik is represented by Sierra Legal Defense Fund.
The accused is scheduled to appear again in provincial court on September 11 in response to both public and private charges.
Mark Mattson, Executive Director of EBI, welcomed the MOE’s decision to pursue a full investigation into the Red Hill Creek discharges and its decision to lay its own charge, based on their own evidence. “The time and resources expended by the MOE investigating the pollution, following the original evidence collected by community groups and EBI, sets an important precedent for how evidence of environmental crime should be acted upon by our environmental police.”
November 10, 1999
SIERRA LEGAL DEFENCE FUND &
ENVIRONMENTAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
City of Hamilton Charged for Red Hill Creek Toxic PCB Contamination
The Sierra Legal Defence Fund and the Environmental Bureau of Investigation today announced that, in a private prosecution, the City of Hamilton has been charged under the provincial Environmental Protection Act and the federal Fisheries Act for allegedly discharging PCBs and toxic ammonia into Red Hill Creek from the City’s Rennie Street Public Works yard in Hamilton. Lynda Lukasik, a Hamilton environmentalist and winner of the 1999 “Environmentalist of the Year Award” laid the private prosecution charges on behalf of hundreds of citizens who have struggled for years to protect the Red Hill Valley and its fish bearing Creek. Lynda is represented by Douglas Chapman of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) who will prosecute the case. Mark Mattson, of the Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI) gathered the evidence including pollution samples and documents.
The City of Hamilton apparently has known for 10 years that leachate from the old Rennie Street dump has been pouring into the fragile waters of Red Hill Creek. Almost a year and a half ago, the Ministry of the Environment advised the City that its discharges into the Creek contained dangerous polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and that the City “was required to take the necessary remedial measures to eliminate the seepage of wastes into the Creek.”
“PCBs are a world-wide problem and are banned hazardous substances because they are so persistent in the environment,” said Lynda Lukasik. “Further”, she said, “most of these PCBs are going into Hamilton Harbour which is already a polluted ‘Area of Concern’ under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.”
The toxic ammonia levels were so high in the samples obtained from the site that the test animals all died in minutes in the lab. There are already strict government fish-consumption restrictions in place for people eating fish from Hamilton Harbour. Most of these restrictions are PCB based. Both ammonia and PCBs are listed as contaminants of concern in downstream Hamilton Harbour.
Burke Austin, who lives very close to the site, is appalled that the City has allowed its City Yard and dump to discharge dangerous PCBs onto the banks of the Creek and into it. “For years I worked to have the trail and bridge installed across the Creek so that citizens could have access to it, and now I am so worried because I know that many children are playing in this polluted area and there are no signs to warn them,” she said.
“It’s a tragedy that private citizens have had to take environmental law enforcement into their own hands in Ontario,” said Stewart Elgie, Managing Lawyer of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. “The Provincial Government has cut 40% from its environmental budget since 1995 and is turning a blind eye to toxic pollution problems like this one.”
Dave Dillenbeck, a Biologist with over 20 years experience with the Ministry of the Environment before his retirement, examined the discharges at the site, the lab documents and concluded that the City’s discharges into Red Hill Creek were always acutely toxic to fish and further that the PCB concentrations were “many thousands of times” over the Provincial Water Quality Objectives for PCBs.
MAXIMUM FINES FOR OFFENCES ARE OVER $2 MILLION