Do You Comply?
Someone in your company could be taking an accountability risk!
There are three primary sources of environmental obligations in relation to storm water run-off:
Municipal Environmental Liability
All municipalities have the authority to enact Sewer Use By-Laws and most now have such by-laws in place.
Burlington By-law 86-2002
4.1 No person shall discharge or cause or permit the discharge or deposit of matter of any type or at any temperature or in any quantity into a City storm sewer, watercourse, municipal sewer connection or private sewer connection to any City storm sewer, whether the path of such discharge or deposit is either direct or indirect, which may or could:
4.1.1. damage a storm sewer;
4.1.2. interfere with the proper operation of a storm sewer;
4.1.3. obstruct or restrict a storm sewer of the flow therein;
4.1.4. result in any hazard or other adverse impact, to any person, animal, property, or vegetation;
4.1.5. impair the quality of the water in any well, lake, river, pond, spring, stream, reservoir or other water or watercourse.
Violation of a municipal Sewer-Use By-Law can result in an inspection by local by-law enforcement officers and compliance program action or even prosecution.
Ontario’s Ontario Water Resources Act contains a broad prohibition against the release or discharge of any material that may impair water quality, and the Environmental Protection Act prohibits the release of any contaminant that may cause and adverse effect into the natural environments. There are also prohibitions under both statues for failing to follow the requirements set out in provincial Certificates of Approval.
Ontario Certificate of Approval
In accordance with Section 53 of the Ontario Water Resources Act
Terms and Conditions
2. Operation and Maintenance
(1) The owner shall ensure that at all times, the works and related equipment and appurtenances which are installed or used to achieve compliance with this certificate are properly operated and maintained.
(2) The owner shall prepare an operations manual for the operation of the sewage works within three months of issuance of this certificate, maintain the operations manual.
As with the municipal violations noted above, every day that an offence continues constitutes a separate charge under provincial legislation, and fines range for $50,000 to $100,000 per day for individuals and $250,000 to $500,000 per day for corporations for general offences. If an offence actually causes an adverse effect, applicable fines can be as high as $4 million on a first offence for individuals and $6 million for corporations.
It should be noted that Ontario's environmental statutes were amended to place a "reverse onus" on officers and directors. Officers and directors now have explicit legal duties to ensure that their corporations comply with and do not violate provincial environmental legislation.
Federal Environmental Liability
At the federal level, the principal source of potential liability is the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the release of any "deleterious substances" into fish habitat. Fish habitat is defined very broadly under the Fisheries Act and can include roadside ditches and watercourses that are only intermittently wet.
If a property owner knows or should know, that the run-off leaving their property contains a substance that could be harmful to fish, than the owner has a legal duty to prevent that discharge from taking place.
In short, water quality treatment systems such as the Stormceptor® can be an element of an effective Environmental Management System, and evidence of a property owner's efforts to take all reasonable care to comply with environmental legislation. It is critical that the applicable maintenance requirements are understood, adjusted for local requirement, and then complied with.