Last fall, Stadacona was convicted under the (former) Fisheries Act and the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations. According to Environment Canada, “Stadacona General Partner Inc. pleaded guilty to having released one million litres of untreated process water into the Saint-Charles River, in Québec, and of having used a non-standard sampling method.”
The spill part of the case was rather obvious: The effluent was acutely toxic to fish, and was spilled when poorly-maintained pumping equipment failed. But what was wrong with the sampling? Environment Canada didn’t say.
What was the “non standard sampling”?
We were curious. It took us nearly a year of persistent FOI requests, but we can finally let you know (thank you, Jackie!). Under s. 32 of the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations, mills must take and analyse multiple samples when a wastewater spill occurs. Stadacona staff did collect 20 litres of the wastewater for analysis (the amount they usually took for monthly routine sampling), and ordered the proper tests from the lab. However, the lab needed 40 litres to do the tests that the Regulation requires when a spill occurs. Stadacona had not figured this out in advance, and didn’t have a written procedure for taking proper samples when a spill occurred. Accordingly, it had no legal defence to the charge: seeStadacona decision on sampling (in the original French).
Meanwhile, Stadacona was ordered to pay $49,500 to the Environmental Damages Fund to promote fish protection, management and monitoring, plus a $5,500 fine.
However, as often happens, these penalties will probably not be paid. After the spill, the plant went into creditor protection. Shortly after the convictions, the plant shut down and laid off all the employees. This triggered numerous demands to save the plant“, which reopened after an asset sale with $15 million in provincial government funds.