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Big personal fine for contractor

Fines imposed on individuals for environmental offences keep increasing. In R. v.  James Douglas Diamond, Mr. Diamond pleaded guilty to discharging anhydrous ammonia that caused an adverse effect, and to failing to report the discharge, contrary to the Environmental Protection Act. He was Operations Supervisor at Black & McDonald Ltd., a contractor which was bidding to replace the condenser unit located outside a Chatham-Kent sports arena, and asked to be allowed access to the refrigeration equipment so he could start planning for the job.

Mr. Diamond opened a vent valve, and purged anhydrous ammonia gas. The ammonia reached a swimming pool next to the arena.  The lifeguards became affected by the ammonia pollution in the air – experiencing symptoms ranging from irritated eyes and throat to coughing, difficulty breathing, headache, queasy stomach and disorientation. The lifeguards then evacuated the pool, and were transported to the hospital for treatment.

Mr. Diamond’s employer and the municipality were also charged, but the charges against them were withdrawn.

Although Black & McDonald did not have a specific policy or procedure for safe removal of ammonia from a condenser, it did have general policies concerning handling of chemicals and hazardous substances.   As well, the company had a procedure for reporting discharges to the MOE. Mr. Diamond failed to report the discharge to the MOE.  Instead, he reported the spill the next day, to his supervisor.

Mr. Diamond was reprimanded for violating his company’s procedures by not completing a project safety plan to identify risks before starting any work.

Mr. Diamond was fined $20,000 on each count, for a total fine of $40,000 plus the 25% Victim Fine Surcharge.

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