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.”