City’s trial delayed as charges combined

By Sue Yanagisawa Whig – Standard Staff Writer

A trial over the complaint of a private who accuses the City of Kingston of allowing pollution into the Cataraqui River has been postponed. The charge which was laid under the Federal Fisheries Act was scheduled to begin Monday. But lawyers representing the city, the Ministry of Environment, and Janet Flectcher, the woman who initiated the private prosecution, have agreed not to proceed as scheduled.
Instead, all parties will be back in provincial court at 2 pm on Nov. 19 to start again in the process leading to new trial dates. The City was originally served notice in March that it was being taken to court by Fletcher. She is being assisted by environmental lawyers from the Sierra Legal Defense Fund and court time for the trial was set aside months ago. Last week, however, the Environment Ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement branch served notice that it also plans to prosecute the city and its director of environmental services and engineering, Mirka Januskiewicz, under the Federal Fisheries Act. The city doesn’t want to have to defend itself twice against what Mayor Gary Bennett has said are essentially the same charges. Consequently, the municipality applied yesterday in front of justice of the peace Cathy Hickling to have the two prosecutions joined in a single trial. Both Fletcher’s charges and the ministry’s charges have their root in the same set of circumstances, if not the same date.They all relate to seepages of water that escaped into the Cataraqui River from Belle park during partial thaws last winter. The park and its nine-hole municipal gold course are sitting on top of an old city dump site closed in the 1970’s when environmental laws were more lenient. Fletcher took samples of the water leaking from the site and had them analysed and tested on live fish fry. The fry died and the samples tested positive for benzene, chlorobenzene, heavy metals and ammonia. After the city received its notice to appear in court on Fletcher’s charges, in March, Malroz Engineering was hired to deal with the problem. Since then, seepage from the park property has been collected in pits and disposed of through the city sanitary treatment plant with the approval of the ministry’s abatement branch.
“I would have liked to have gotten started,” Fletcher said when asked her feelings about postponing the trial, “I think it’s been a long enough delay.”
She said she’s happy to see the ministry come on board, however, and she’ll be satisfied if a new trial date can be set before 1998. “I’d hate to see it roll over to the new year,” she said. Fletcher has joined the Environmental Bureau of Investigation, a new watchdog group that’s being formed under Energy Probe. Mark Mattson, the environmental lawyer who appeared in court yesterday on her behalf, has assumed the executive directorship of the new group.