March 13, 1997

Citizen’s environmental group commences Private Prosecution against City of Kingston for toxic waste dump pollution flowing into the Great Cataraqui River

On behalf of the Storrington Committee Against Trash (SCAT), a local Frontenac County resident had just laid a charge against the City of Kingston under the federal Fisheries Act for allowing toxic leachate to pour out of the City’s Belle Park Golf Course, a former City waste dump and into the Cataraqui River.

With the assistance of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF), the private prosecution was commenced by Janet Fletcher, a member of SCAT, a local environmental group fighting to protect the Great Cataraqui River and downstream Lake Ontario. “The City of Kingston officials have known for years about the toxic material pouring from this site into the River and have refused to take any action to prevent it,” explained Fletcher.

The evidence gathered by SLDF investigators and volunteers alleges that on four days last December the toxic liquid that discharged into the River from the north shore of Belle Park was so concentrated that all the test fish that were exposed to it were killed almost immediately.

A Ministry of Environment & Energy (MOEE) report labels this closed City waste disposal site as containing liquid industrial or hazardous waste and classifies it as posing the “highest hazard to humans.” A scientitst with over 20 years experience at MOEE and retained by SLDF has estimated that approximately 68,420 Imperial gallons of leachate a day is pouring from this site by way of groundwater and surface water. This is the equivalent of 20 full tank-trucks each day. “To make matters worse,” says SLDF staff lawyer, Tom Heintzman, “the toxic material gushing from the site contains heavy metals and benzene, a known human carcinogen and there is an active commercial fishery right beside the discharge. Also there is a children’s summer camp on nearby Bells Island!”

One MOEE official has stated that a big part of the problem has been the recent severe cutbacks to staffing at the Kingston MOEE office that has resulted in fewer provincial officers being available to perform their required pollution abatememnt duties.

The maximum fine for the offence under the Fisheries Act is $1.2 million. The City’s first Court appearance will be in Kingston Provincial Court on April 15.