An aviation fuel company has pleaded guilty to spilling fuel into a mountain stream in the Slocan Valley seven years ago and handed a hefty fine by a provincial court judge.
Calgary-based Executive Flight Centre Fuel Services Ltd pleaded guilty last Friday to one count of a deleterious deposit into waters frequented by fish, under the Fisheries Act.
The company made the plea in Nelson Provincial Court and has been fined $175,000.
The majority of the fine - $165,000 – will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund to be used for fish habitat conservation efforts in the Slocan Valley, according to a release from the province’s conservation officers service.
The maximum fine at the time of the offence was $300,000.
The ruling came after 35,000 litres of jet fuel was spilled into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley, northwest of Nelson, BC, in 2013.
The spill contaminated the waterway that is a tributary of the Slocan River, led to residential evacuations and cost the trucking company approximately $5 million in clean-up costs.
The tanker truck full of fuel was destined for helicopters fighting a forest fire in the area.
The fuel truck driver, Danny Lasante, was earlier convicted of one count of introducing waste into environment causing pollution, contrary to section 6(4) under the Environmental Management Act and fined $20,000. Half of that fine is directed to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and due in 2021.
The multi-jurisdictional investigation into the spill included the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The Province of B.C. was acquitted of all charges related to the spill.
The spill cause widespread concern in the rural Slocan Valley that the fuel had contaminated local drinking water supplies.
Walter Popoff, a local politician, says the event hit the community hard.
“Initally it was a major impact,” says Popoff. “There were concerns about the water, effect on crops, health effects, so it had a major, major impact.
“But as we worked through it, most of the issues were resolved, and the concerns were addressed. We moved forward.”
The justice was served a month too late for one of the principal activists who pushed for criminal prosecutions in the case.
Marilyn Burgoon launched a rare private-prosecution, which was eventually taken over by the federal government.
Burgoon passed away in January.