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Firm fined CA$755,000 for illegal ammonia discharge

The contaminated water was overflowing into a storm drain, which flows into Bath Slough and discharges into the fish-bearing Fraser River (pictured)

CANADA: A British-Columbia-based seafood processing and cold storage company has been fined CA$755,000 (US$566,000) after pleading guilty to transporting and discharging ammonia into fish-bearing water.

In the Provincial Court of British Columbia, Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd was fined CA700,000 (US$525,000) after pleading guilty to one charge laid under the federal Fisheries Act and was also ordered to pay $55,000 (US$41,000) after pleading guilty to two charges laid under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. The company was also ordered to pay $8,477.43 in restitution to the City of Richmond, representing the cost to the Richmond Fire Department’s response to the incident.

Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers and Transport Canada inspectors initiated a joint investigation in November 2017, after an individual called for emergency medical assistance after inhaling ammonia gas at Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage’s warehouse.

The investigation revealed that in October 2017, a large quantity of contaminated ammonia was removed from a fishing vessel in Richmond, British Columbia, during maintenance of the refrigeration system. The ammonia was transferred into a high-pressure storage tank on shore. 

Sometime between November 1 and 23, 2017, the storage tank, containing the contaminated ammonia, was collected and transported by truck to Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage’s warehouse by a company employee. This was done at the direction of one of the company’s owners. 

On the morning of November 24, 2017, a garbage disposal company employee arrived at the warehouse to collect garbage and became ill from the strong smell of ammonia. His call for help led local authorities to the storage tank’s location in the back of the truck and was releasing ammonia into a fish tote of water.  The contaminated water was overflowing into a storm drain, which flows into Bath Slough and discharges into the fish-bearing Fraser River. This was a violation of Canada’s Fisheries Act.

The court heard that in November 2017, Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage was quoted $19,000 by a refrigeration contractor to dispose of the contaminated ammonia but declined the offer of service.

The investigation also revealed that, contrary to provisions of the Transportation of Canada’s Dangerous Goods Act, the contaminated ammonia storage tank was not built to the required specifications for the transport of dangerous goods. The tank also did not have the required shipping documents or safety marks. 

The driver did not have a Transportation of Dangerous Goods Training Certificate. No individuals involved had the required training in the handling, transportation, and storage of ammonia.

Experts estimate that approximately 1,227lbs (557kg) of ammonia was released into the environment, with approximately 929lbs (421kg) of which was released into the storm sewer, and the remainder vaporising into the air.

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