City of Ottawa fined $450,000 for August 2006 sewage discharge into the Ottawa River
OTTAWA -- On October 10, 2008, the City of Ottawa was fined $450,000 for two offences under the Ontario Water Resources Act in connection with the discharge of sewage to the Ottawa River during the month of August 2006, plus $112,500 for the victim fine surcharge. The City pled guilty to these offences on September 11, 2008 and an agreed statement of facts was heard by the Court on October 3, 2008.
The Court heard that the City is the owner of and responsible for the operation and maintenance of sanitary sewers and sewage treatment systems within the City's geographic area. There are a number of regulators located within Ottawa's sewer line network. A regulator is designed to protect public health and the sewer line network when the amount of sewage in the system reaches the capacity of the pipes. This most commonly occurs during storm events. Under these circumstances, gates within the regulators in combined sewer lines direct sewage and storm water to outflow pipes. This practice is referred to as a Combined Sewer Overflow event.
Between the days of August 1 to August 3, 2006, the City experienced extremely heavy rains, resulting in a number of Combined Sewer Overflow events. During this time, the regulator gate that directs the combined sewage near Keefer Street became jammed and from August 4 to August 15, 2006, sewage continued to discharge into the river. The City's Public Works and Services Department did not discover the jammed gate until August 15, 2006, and therefore, between August 4 to August 15, 2006, the discharge was unlawful. During this period, it is estimated that 764 million litres of sewage was unlawfully discharged into the Ottawa River.
Upon learning of the jam, the City took immediate steps to ensure the gate was returned to proper operating condition. The City's Public Works and Services Department did not notify the ministry at the time it became aware of the jam until an informal phone call was placed on April 23, 2007. The Department formally notified the ministry of the discharge in a letter dated May 16, 2007.
The City was charged, following an investigation by the Ministry of the Environment's Investigations and Enforcement Branch.
The City was charged, between August 4 and August 15, 2006, of causing or permitting the discharge of sewage into waters that may impair the quality of water, contrary to s. 30(1) of the OWRA. The City was also charged with failing to notify the ministry forthwith, on August 15, 2006 of the discharge, contrary to s. 30(2) of the OWRA.
The sentencing submission took into consideration other sewage discharge events that occurred between 1998 and 2008.
Justice of the Peace Louisette Girault heard the case in the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa, Ontario and imposed sentence on October 10, 2008.