Illegal water diversion alleged in trial

The trial is now underway for a local business operator accused of causing a mudslide on a neighbouring property.

The trial is now underway for a local business operator accused of causing a mudslide on a neighbouring property.

Auto Body Services Red Deer Ltd. and its primary shareholder, Harry Veenstra, are co-accused of seven offences under provincial statutes, including the Water Act and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

In Red Deer provincial court before Judge Gordon Yake on Monday, special prosecutor Peter Roginski of Calgary alleged that, on July 21, 2010, Veenstra directed an illegal water diversion while a crew was conducting work on the business site, located just north of Red Deer between the Red Deer River and the Blindman industrial subdivision.

Roginski said Veenstra had leased the northeast portion of the site to another company, which was conducting earth work including excavation of two water retention pits.

He went on to allege that, after an unexpectedly heavy rainfall, water from the pits was pumped away from the site, flooded a nearby hayfield and caused a landslide that flowed onto a grain or cereal crop on a lower level of the farmland.

Crown witness Ron Hanson, an environmental protection officer with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, testified that he visited and photographed the site three times after the alleged diversion.

Hanson described finding “murky” water in the crop and hayfield, similar in appearance to the water that he saw in the pits on Veenstra’s property. He said a portion of the hayfield was flooded with murky water and a portion of the escarpment between the hayfield and the crop had given way, flowing onto the lower field.

Hanson also testified that he saw a distinct mark on the Auto Body Services site where a hose had lain, but there was no hose present when he was there.

Roginski said he and defence counsel Sean Moring of Edmonton have worked out an agreed statement of facts, which he believes will significantly reduce the amount of time needed for the trial, which was originally scheduled to take three weeks. He plans to call 15 witnesses in total, with the Crown’s case to wrap up on Thursday or Friday.

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