The Catalyst Paper Mill in Crofton was fined more than $25,000 by B.C.’s ministry of environment for spilling roughly a million litres of waste into the ocean in 2021.
The incident occurred on July 23, 2021, when up to “1,000,000 liters of effluent, storm water and seawater” was discharged from the mill.
The toxic discharge was released because of a failed expansion joint on one of the pumps at the mill, according to a penalty decision released by the ministry on Jan. 9.
The ministry reviewed the incident and determined that Paper Excellence, the company behind the mill, failed to comply with three regulations related to the spill, including the spill itself and for failure to maintain its equipment.
The ministry’s $25,500 fine also includes another discharge incident that occurred at the mill on Aug. 7, 2021.
In the second case, approximately 6,000 litres of effluent was released into the environment because of a pump failure.
Catalyst initially tried to blame this second discharge on Mosaic Forest Management, which was leasing the part of the property where the spill occurred.
However, the ministry ruled that Catalyst was still responsible for all activities on the site.
“While Catalyst may have internally delegated some tasks and duties to its tenant, it remains ultimately responsible for meeting all permit requirements,” reads part of the decision.
Paper Excellence faced three breaches of compliance for the August spill. The company tried to argue that in both cases, the environmental impact was moderate and not high, as there were no signs of obvious harm.
However, the ministry ruled that the potential for adverse effects was high, with the possibility of endangering “property or plant or animal health.”
The ministry could have issued a separate fine of up to $40,000 for each of the six violations, for a total of $240,000, but decided to combine the penalties into one single fine, since it was the first penalty that Catalyst had received since it started its permit with the province.
The fine was ultimately lowered to $25,500 in recognition of Catalyst’s quick efforts to stop the initial discharge, and for its ongoing work to prevent similar failures from happening again.