Three charges have been laid against Stewart Bulk Terminals Ltd. and Fraser River Pile and Dredge Inc. for illegally disposing of dredge material from the former’s wharf facility in Stewart.
The charges were laid May 28 by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). The charges state the accused did load the substance onto a structure to dispose of at sea between Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 2015, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (EPA) as investigated by the ECCC.
Dredging is when silt and other material is removed from the bottom of bodies of water. Vessels need a certain amount of water to float and not touch the bottom when coming into channels and harbours, and the act of dredging can help maintain or increase the depth of navigation channels.
In this case, some bed-levelling was allegedly done when the accused was doing a standard dredging project at the Stewart port on the Portland Canal, according to McMillan law firm partner Melanie Harmer, who is representing Stewart Bulk Terminals in the case.
“When you’re dredging, you move things from higher points on the ocean floor to lower points, so that’s what’s alleged,” Harmer says. “We’re still investigating what happened here.”
Impact concerns regarding the disposal of dredge material vary by project and are often independent of its size, according to ECCC national guidelines.
For example, a disposal site receiving a small quantity (8,000 cubic metres) of dredged sediment each may cause significant concern if there are resource and site-use conflict issues, like potential impacts to a commercial fishery, the guideline notes. In comparison, a larger site receiving 50,000 cubic metres of clean sand may not pose any substantial concerns.
The disposal of any substance into the sea, even on the seabed, in the subsoil of the seabed or onto ice, from a ship, an aircraft, a platform or other structure is not allowed unless a permit is issued by the ECCC’s Disposal at Sea Program. Only a small list of waste or other matter can be considered for disposal.
As the matter is before the courts, an ECCC spokesperson declined to provide further information regarding the case.
If convicted, the accused could face fines of between $15,000 to $1 million for the first offence and/or imprisonment for a maximum of three years.
A summons was issued on June 8 for the accused to appear in court on August 29 at the Stewart Provincial Court, which was followed by a routine appearance on Oct. 22 in Terrace. An arraignment hearing, where the accused will formally enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, is set for Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. at the Terrace courthouse.