Keeping the Red Deer River as clean as possible is behind a proposal to increase fines for offenders who dispose of illegal substances down city sewers. (photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Fines for dumping dangerous contaminants into Red Deer sewers could increase tenfold

A first offence penalty would be $2,500 instead of $250

Dumping dangerous substances down drains or sewers could cost repeat offenders $7,500 per violation, according to the stiffer fines being considered by Red Deer city council.

A first-offence penalty for illegal discharges into the city’s waste water system would jump tenfold — to $2,500 from a previous $250 — in accordance with changes that gained initial approval from councillors this week.

Coun. Vesna Higham expressed concern about this “dramatic” increase in penalties, wondering if it was warranted.

Council heard the fines for a second offence would increase to $5,000, from the existing $1,000, and third and subsequent offences would be $7,500, compared to the current $2,500.

Offenders could face a six-month prison sentence if fines aren’t paid.

Tim Ainscough, the city’s environmental services manager, explained that high levels of prohibited chemicals in waste water are almost always due to corporate dumping, rather than by an individual.

Raising the penalties is necessary as “a low-level fine can be considered ‘the cost of doing business’ by a corporation,” he added — especially when city penalties are lower than the cost of proper commercial disposal.

City councillors were told the discharge of dangerous chemicals, such as mercury or phosphorus, can cost taxpayers “tens of thousands of dollars” when they end up in the treatment system.

Some of these chemicals end up killing “good” bacteria that help in the biological treatment of water, said Ainscough, who noted the city’s legal department suggested raising fines to reflect the severity of the offence and to serve as a deterrent.

While no fines for illegal discharge have had to be issued during his five years with the city, Ainscough knows other municipalities have dealt with this problem. He feels prevention is important as Red Deer is part of a regional water system, and is upstream from many communities.

Red Deer city workers regularly test the effluent released by certain local businesses, such as restaurants and abbatoirs, that are known to have higher bacterial counts in their waste water. These businesses pay a surcharge to compensate the city for the extra cost of their water treatment, said Ainscough.

But if extremely high levels of contaminants are found, he said city workers will work with corporations to resolve the problem. He noted Red Deer businesses have generally played by the rules and been co-operative.

Red Deer city council heard the proposed fines are more in line with those used by other municipalities, including Edmonton, Calgary, Camrose, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

First and second reading of the amendment were unanimously approved by city council on Monday. But the majority of councillors opted to put off third reading for two weeks to give the community time to respond.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Red Deer City Council

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Addressing anti-mask protests poses a challenge for leaders, experts say

Quebec’s COVID-19 case numbers hit their highest numbers since the end of May

Canada’s Kennedy to yesterday’s man: former PM John Turner dead at 91

Politicians and other public figures immediately began sharing memories

Community art project will thank front line workers

Red Deerians are painting hearts to say thank you to frontline workers.… Continue reading

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

The 2020 Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., will be held as a special hybrid event

New tools, ideas needed to speed up housing strategy funding, CMHC president says

Slow turnaround time on some of its national housing strategy programs

Letter containing ricin sent to White House may have come from Canada: RCMP

The letter contained ricin, a toxic substance found naturally in castor beans

Nunavut reports first confirmed COVID-19 cases, saying both are mine workers

The territory says at this time, there is no evidence of transmission within site

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

The pandemic has shown how heavily Canada relies on migrant and undocumented workers

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

Former prime minister John Turner dead at 91

TORONTO — Former prime minister John Turner, whose odyssey from a “Liberal… Continue reading

Hay’s Daze: Happy to be left out of the picture

Talk about being out of the loop. Head in the sand. Uninformed,… Continue reading

Most Read