Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. of Saint John, New Brunswick, has agreed to pay $3.5 million in penalties as part of an agreed statement of facts over violations of the federal Fisheries Act resulting from effluent discharges from its pulp mill into the Saint John River over a two-year period.
If imposed, it will be one of the largest penalties ever for depositing deleterious substances, however, the judge overseeing the case has reserved decision on sentencing until November 5. Additionally, a condition of the currently proposed court agreement would require Irving Pulp and Paper to install a multi-million-dollar effluent treatment facility as a condition to operate.
The paper manufacturer has three prior convictions for Fisheries Act violations in 1999, 2009 and 2010. The penalties in those cases ranged between $37,000 and $75,000. Environment Canada also issued warnings to the company in 2011 and 2012.
There are 53 species of fish in the watershed, according to the case’s agreed statement of facts.
In a statement about its guilty plea, Irving Pulp and Paper said, while there was no evidence of any fish mortality or environmental harm in the Saint John River at the time, the company did fail a prescribed test under Section 3 of the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations (under the Fisheries Act) that requires 50% or more of rainbow trout tested to survive 96 hours in 100% effluent.
“This is a tough day for the entire team of over 375 people at IPP,” announced Mark Mosher, Vice President of Irving Pulp and Paper. “We live and work here. We care about and are active in our community. Safeguarding the environment has been and continues to be our top priority. We respect the decision of the court and will ensure the mill meets the stringent guidelines established within its operating guidelines. We are pleased that some of the penalty will be dedicated to wild Atlantic salmon conservation and research,” Mosher added.
Specifically, $1.16 million of the fines will go to Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow (CAST), a non-profit organization dedicated to wild Atlantic salmon research and conservation.
The mill was originally charged with 15 offences related to discharges; however, 12 of those charges were dropped. Irving Pulp and Paper self-reported all of the discharge incidents.