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Water Testing Laboratory and Owners fined $246,500 plus VFS for Safe Drinking Water Act Violations

Court Bulletin

Water Testing Laboratory and Owners fined $246,500 plus VFS for Safe Drinking Water Act Violations

Convicted - Central Ontario Analytical Laboratory Inc., 2293560 Ontario Inc., Lesley Johnston, Teresa Johnston and Russell Johnston

Location - Orillia

Description of Offences -  

First Investigation: Central Ontario Analytical Laboratory Inc. (COAL), 2293560 Ontario Inc., Lesley and Teresa Johnston were charged and convicted under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The convictions relate to offering or providing a drinking water testing service without authority or not in accordance with a drinking water testing licence.

Second Investigation: COAL, 2293560 Ontario Inc., Lesley Johnston,Teresa Johnston, and Russell Johnston were charged and convicted under the SDWA; the convictions relate to offering or providing a drinking water testing service without the authority of or not in accordance with a drinking water testing licence (2), and conducting a drinking water test contrary to a drinking water testing licence.

Date of Offences -

First Investigation: On or about July 2, 2014

Second Investigation: Specific dates ranging from on or about December 18, 2012 through March 25, 2015

Date of Conviction - December 6, 2017

Penalties Imposed -

  • Central Ontario Analytical Laboratory Inc. was convicted of six offences under the SDWA and  was fined $187,500 plus a victim fine surcharge (VFS) of $46,875.
  • 293560 Ontario Inc. was convicted of three offences, was fined $15,000 plus a VFS of $3,750.
  • Lesley Johnston was convicted of five offences, was fined $26,000 plus a VFS of $6,500.
  • Teresa Johnston was convicted of two offences, was fined $13,000 plus a VFS of $3,250.
  • Russell Johnston was convicted of one offence, was fined $5,000 plus a VFS of $1,250.
  • Additionally, the court issued an Order that prohibits COAL, 2293560 Ontario Inc., Lesley Johnston,Teresa Johnston, and Russell Johnston from ever holding or applying for a drinking water testing licence under the SDWA.
  • The defendants have two years to pay the fines.

Background -  

  • At all times relevant to the two ministry investigations, COAL and the Numbered Company were located on Burnside Line in Orillia. 
  • COAL and the Numbered Company are privately operated laboratories that provided drinking water sample analysis for municipalities, businesses and households; both companies were incorporated August 1, 2011.
  • Lesley and Russell Johnston (husband and wife) and Teresa Johnston (daughter) are the owners, sole officers and directors, and the operating minds of COAL and the Numbered Company.

Investigation 1:

  • COAL was licenced to analyse private drinking water samples for some limited parameters.  The Numbered Company was not ever licenced to perform drinking water analysis.
  • On April 25, 2013, the ministry inspected COAL and determined that the lab had been testing private well drinking water samples for parameters that it was not licensed to perform.  The company and Lesley Johnston were advised to stop performing analysis of private well drinking water samples for parameters for which it was not licenced. 
  • Despite assurances to the ministry that it would no longer do so, in July 2014, COAL analysed private drinking water samples for parameters that it was not licenced to test, but indicated on test reports that the Numbered Company had performed the tests, not COAL.

Investigation 2:

  • On November 17, 2014 and on December 2, 2014 respectively, COAL analysed private drinking water samples for parameters that it was not licenced to test, but indicated on test reports that the Numbered Company had performed the tests, not COAL.
  • COAL's licence required it to follow specific testing methods to test drinking water samples for Total Coliform bacteria and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
    On or about December 18, 2012 through March 25, 2015, the company was not incubating bacteriological membrane filtration samples the required amount of time as per the requirements of the methods for which the laboratory was licenced.
    On or about December 18, 2012 through January 4, 2015, the company was improperly reusing agar media and/or Petri dishes for bacteriological membrane filtration testing of drinking water, contrary to the requirements of the methods for which the laboratory was licenced.
    On or about December 18, 2012 through March 25, 2015, the company was using an incubator that was outside the acceptable temperature range,  contrary to the requirements of the methods for which the laboratory was licenced.
  • The incidents were referred to the ministry's Investigations and Enforcement branch, resulting in charges and the convictions.

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