Ontario contractor fined $60K for delaying report of diesel spill during ice road work

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An excavation contracting company has been fined $60,000 in relation to the discharge of diesel fuel and oil into Birch Lake during northern Ontario ice road maintenance in 2021.

Green Acres Contracting (Red Lake) Inc. was convicted of two violations under the Ontario Water Resources Act in May 2023.

According to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), the incident involved a contractor using a snow groomer to build an ice road across Birch Lake in the Ontario District of Kenora. The machine, which held 270 litres of fuel, broke through the ice and plunged into the water. The fuel reservoir spilled into the lake and created a visible sheen and discolouration in the ice, snow and water.

About one week later, the contractor retrieved the partially submerged snow groomer from the lake and ministry officials were contacted about the diesel spill. The delay in reporting the spill, however, led to a charge against the company.

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Additionally, when company employees retrieved the snow groomer, they drained its remaining fluids by flushing out the engine with oil, hydraulic fluid, and diesel along the adjacent shoreline.

“No precautionary measures were taken to prevent the draining fluids from entering the natural environment,” said the MECP in a press release.

Shoreline snow samples confirmed the presence of diesel and oil, leading to an additional charge against the contractor. Diesel fuel and engine oil are harmful to aquatic organisms and can be toxic to aquatic life, the ministry noted in a court bulletin.

The contractor was additionally fined $15,000 as a victim surcharge and given one year to pay.

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