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Geo-Environmental Firm and Director Fined a Total of $45,500 for Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) Violations

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Geo-Environmental Firm and Director Fined a Total of $45,500 for Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) Violations

Belleville - Geo-environmental firmBruce A. Brown Associates Limited (Brown Assoc.) and Director Bruce A. Brown (Dr. Brown) were fined a total of $45,500, following a re-trial, for improper abandonment of wells, and for providing false or misleading information to the ministry, contrary to the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA). Dr. Brown and Brown Assoc. were acquitted of two other charges under the OWRA.

Dr. Brown is the owner and sole director and officer of Brown Assoc., a geo-environmental firm registered in Ontario. The charges concern work performed by Brown Assoc. relating to a former industrial site on Dundas St. E. in Belleville.

On September 6, 2007, Dr. Brown wrote a letter to the ministry in which he advised that his firm had commissioned three test wells on the site. This claim was false or misleading. In fact, the wells had been commissioned by James Sinclair, whose company Sinclair's Landing Inc. owned the site, without the involvement of Dr. Brown or Brown Assoc. Sinclair commissioned the wells without hiring a licenced well contractor and one of the wells was drilled in violation of a securement order issued by the Superior Court that prohibited Sinclair, Sinclair's Landing Inc., and their employees or agents, from entering onto portions of the site without prior written permission from the ministry. This securement order had been issued as a result of Sinclair causing the discharge of PCBs from the site and repeatedly violating ministry orders regarding the site.

The three test wells were eventually decommissioned by Sinclair in July 2008. Sinclair decommissioned the wells without placing between 50 and 150 centimetres in vertical thickness of bentonite chips, pellets, granules or powder in the well opening in accordance with the manufacturer's specification, contrary to Sec.21.1(1)8.i. of Regulation 903 made under the OWRA. This step is required by Regulation 903 in order to ensure that an abandoned well is thoroughly and flexibly sealed to prevent migration of contaminants. Sinclair failed to add bentonite to the wells as required because of directions given to him by Dr. Brown and Brown Assoc. that the step was not required.

The ministry's Investigations and Enforcement Branch (IEB) subsequently investigated these and related matters. During the investigation, Dr. Brown wrote a letter to the investigator in which he claimed that "Neither I nor anyone from this office provided Mr. Sinclair with a list of material requirements or quantities or provided any detailed prescription of work requirements." This claim was false or misleading.

This was a re-trial. In 2011, Dr. Brown and Brown Assoc. were convicted for violations under the OWRA and were sentenced. They appealed the convictions. In 2012, the appeal was granted, and a new trial was ordered.

Following the new trial, Dr. Brown and Brown Assoc. were found guilty of three offences under the OWRA and acquitted of two other offences. Dr. Brown was fined a total of $4,500; Brown Assoc. was fined a total of $41,000; and, in total, a total victim fine surcharge of $11,375 was added to the fines. Both parties were given six months to pay the fines.

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