As environmental consultants we often get asked, “at what point does a spill or release need to be reported?” Well the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has shown that even the shortest unintended spills need to be reported. Recently, a Stoney Creek company was fined $10,000 under the Environmental Protection Act (Ontario) for release of a whitish grey particulate from a silo that lasted only a couple of minutes. The release from the silos had deposited on about 30 vehicles of neighbouring vehicles that required multiple car washes to remove.
The MOECC had no record that the spill had been reported by the company, but rather, the individuals that had dust settle on their cars were the first to report. This is an important fact. Obviously, when a spill or unintentional release occurs from your facility, regardless of how mundane or insignificant you think it is, you need to be the first to report if you are aware.
Under the Environmental Protection Act, the minimum fine for companies failing to report a spill or discharge is $25,000. Interestingly enough, this company was fined less than the minimum.
Spill and discharge reporting are part of the terms and conditions of Environmental Compliance Approvals, and as can be seen failing to comply can result in fines to your company. The MOECC regularly posts convictions on its Court Bulletins website, definitely not the type of free press you want!