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Newfoundland town fined $50K for chlorine leaks into local river

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The Newfoundland and Labrador Town of Baie Verte has been ordered to pay a $50,000 fine after pleading guilty to discharges of highly-chlorinated water into a local river.

The town’s aging infrastructure, specifically its potable-water system, had repeated issues with a leaking line into the Baie Verte River, which has a large population of salmon. Although chlorine is frequently used in wastewater treatment and drinking water systems, high concentrations of chlorine and chlorine residuals can be deleterious to fish.

According to a 2018 report from The Telegram newspaper in St. John’s, Baie Verte Mayor Brandon Philpott and his team had difficulty resolving the chlorine leak once it was discovered, and may have struggled to find the capital funds for repairs. “We are trying to devote whatever we can to make sure it is done,” Philpott told The Telegram. “We want to see it fixed, and we thought we fixed it twice obviously.”

The town is located on the Baie Verte Peninsula in White Bay, with a base population of 1,370 residents. During the 1950s it underwent a major expansion when the area welcomed mining.

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An inability to resolve the chlorine leak led to a second charge against the town for failure to comply with a Fisheries Act direction that “ordered the town to take action to remedy the situation or prevent future occurrences.”

In terms of a timeline, Environment and Climate Change Canada said its enforcement officers first inspected the Baie Verte River in August 2017, and a lab determined the elevated levels of chlorine. By September, the town had been ordered to “counteract, mitigate, or remedy any adverse effects” from the discharges, as well as “provide a written report documenting the measures taken to comply with the direction.”

Between late 2017 and spring 2018, enforcement officers conducted field measurements and additional water samples for analysis. Each time, chlorine concentrations were in the range of 120 to 6,000 times higher than the recommended limits under the guidelines established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.

The $50,000 fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.

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