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Ammonia discharge leads to CAD$2m fines

CANADA: The discharge of ammonia-laden water from the refrigeration system of a university ice-hockey arena in Vancouver has led to total fines of CAD$2m (€1.33m).

The University of British Columbia and contractor CIMCO Refrigeration have been sentenced for offences committed in violation of the  Canadian fisheries act, related to an incident in 2014 when ammonia-laden water ended up in a tributary of the Fraser River.

Headquartered in Toronto, CIMCO Refrigeration is Canada’s largest industrial refrigeration organisation.

In September, 2014, Environment and Climate Change Canada was informed of an ammonia odour at an outfall ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, Vanouver. The source of ammonia was identified as coming from a refrigeration plant at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Arena.

The ammonia-laden water was discharged into a tributary of British Columbia’s Fraser River

Environment and Climate Change Canada says that CIMCO Refrigeration and the University were completing repairs of the refrigeration system and used a Venturi to purge residual ammonia vapours from the system. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall, through a ditch, and into Booming Ground Creek, a tributary of the Fraser River.

Officers and park rangers found approximately 70 dead fish in Booming Ground Creek in the two days following the discharge. The level of ammonia deposited in the water in the storm drain and ditch was analysed and found to be harmful to fish.

CIMCO Refrigeration was fined CAD$800,000 (€532,000) after pleading guilty to “depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into an area that may enter water frequented by fish”.

The University of British Columbia was fined CAD$1.2m (€795,000) after being found guilty of depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek); depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into places that may enter waters frequented by fish (in this case, a storm sewer and a ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek); and failing to report the incident in a timely manner.

In addition to the fine, the University was also ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality at the outfall where the release occurred.

The University has filed an appeal against these convictions.

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