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City of Red Deer fined $50,000 for release of PCBs

The City of Red Deer has been fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to releasing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a power transformer substation in 2010.

Transformer oil from a contaminated storage tank leaked into the soil between May and October of that year.

PCBs are no longer legal in Canada because they persist in the environment as well as in humans and animals and are believed to cause cancer, said Crown prosecutor Moira Váne during sentencing in Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday.

The oil had been stored at Substation 3 after upgrades were performed to meet federal environment regulations, Váne said in presenting the agreed statement of facts to Judge Gordon Deck.

Oil had been used to insulate the transformers, with PCBs as an additive to enhance the insulating properties, she said.

Contaminated oil was removed from the transformers on May 17, 2010, and placed in a group of 25 208-litre drums that were stored on the site at 3907 55th Ave.

A chain link fence was the only security from trespassers and the drums were placed in the open on a thin layer of gravel with no provisions to contain leaks, said Váne.

On Oct. 21, 2010, a city worker noticed a small “nick” in one of the drums and that it was nearly empty. It is believed about 160 litres of contaminated oil leaked out.

Environment Canada was notified four days later and announced the charges nearly two years later.

All 25 drums were taken to Swan Hills for disposal. Contaminated soil was also removed from the site.

Váne asked that the city’s sentence include a fine and an order that it fully disclose details of the incident through an article to be submitted to the Red Deer Advocate for publication and that it share its experience with other municipalities.

She also asked that the city tighten up its protocols for handling PCBs, including updating its training programs and ensuring that all employees who may handle the materials have completed the training program by the end of February, 2014.

The recommended fine of $50,000 is to go into a federal fund, where it will be held for distribution to environmental enhancement and protection projects within the City of Red Deer, said Váne.

Any money still in the fund after five years can be diverted to similar projects elsewhere in Alberta, she said, noting that the money comes from city taxpayers and should therefore be used in their benefit.

Deck agreed with the recommended sentence, stating that the city must be encouraged to share its story with other municipalities in the province.

“The article concerned should be circulated so all municipalities are well aware of what happened,” he said.

Paul Goranson, director of Development Services for the City of Red Deer, was among the city staff seated in the gallery for the hearing.

“Since the incident, we have reviewed our spill reporting and safety requirements to ensure our procedures and standards meet or exceed those set out in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,” Goranson said in a news release issued immediately afterward.

“We already proactively implemented many of the requirements of today’s order,” he said.

Click here to learn more about PCBs



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