Infrastructure company fined $2.8M for contaminating BC salmon creeks

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Horizontal directional boring uses drilling fluid, which is typically composed of water and clay. Photo credit: aapsky, stock.adobe.com

Alberta-based, well-drilling contractor Michels Canada Co. has been fined $2.8 million for charges related to storm sewer system releases that contaminated two creeks in British Columbia.

Environmental enforcement officers determined that the company’s horizontal directional boring operations during late summer 2017 deposited drilling fluid and sediment-laden water through the storm sewer system into Cape Horn Creek in Coquitlam and Quibble Creek in Surrey.

“Horizontal directional boring is a construction method where a tunnel is drilled horizontally under waterways, railways, or roadways, when other more common methods such as excavating is not an option,” explained Environment and Climate Change Canada in a statement. “During the drilling process, drilling fluid, which is typically composed of water and clay, circulates through the tunnel.”

Michels Canada Co. was founded in 1997 and has an office in B.C. The company pleaded guilty to two charges under the federal Fisheries Act at the Provincial Court of British Columbia in Surrey earlier this December.

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More than 550 fish died as a result of the water contamination, with the overwhelming majority found in Quibble Creek, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The creeks are inhabited by salmon year-round, and also contain rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and coho salmon. Coastal cutthroat trout are a species of concern and designated “at risk”.

Cape Horn Creek flows into the Coquitlam River and downstream to the Fraser River. Quibble Creek flows into the Serpentine River and downstream to the marine waters of Georgia Strait and the Pacific Ocean.

The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund and the money will be used to support projects that have a positive impact on the local environment.

As a result of the conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

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