CBC NEWS - NEW BRUNSWICK
Irving Pulp and Paper pleads guilty to mill pollution charges, offers to pay $3.5M
Judge reserves decision on joint recommendation until Nov. 5
Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon · CBC News · Posted: Oct 09, 2018 2:34 PM AT
Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. has pleaded guilty to three charges under the federal Fisheries Act related to numerous "significant" instances of effluent discharges from its pulp mill in west Saint John into the St. John River over a two-year period.
The company has offered to pay $3.5 million in penalties as part of an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation presented in provincial court Tuesday that involved 12 other charges being withdrawn.
A condition of the proposed court agreement would require the company to install a multi-million-dollar effluent treatment facility as a condition to operate.
Judge David Walker has reserved decision until Nov. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
"I want to give it some thought," he said. "This is not an uncomplicated matter."
Crown prosecutor Paul Adams told the court the volume and toxicity of the effluent involved in the incidents that date back to June 3, 2014, was "very significant."
And while no "actual harm" to fish or fish habitat was detected, "the potential for harm was quite significant" and should be treated "very seriously," he said.
Adams described the St. John watershed as a valuable resource, worthy of the highest degree of deterrence.
Each of the charges carries a minimum fine of $200,000 for a large corporation with a previous conviction. The maximum penalty for each charge is $8 million.
Irving Pulp and Paper has three prior convictions for violations of the act — in 1999, 2009 and 2010.
Under the proposed agreement, a third of the $3.5 million penalty would go to wild Atlantic salmon research and conservation.
J.D. Irving Ltd. spokeswoman Mary Keith has previously said the charges stemmed from fish mortality rates in a laboratory test, which were self-reported by the company.
"The laboratory test does not reflect what would actually happen in the real world," she said in January 2017. "None of the incidents that resulted in the 15 charges resulted in any environmental damage. There was no fish mortality in the natural environment as a result of the incidents."
Defence lawyer George Cooper reiterated Tuesday that Irving Pulp and Paper self-reported each of the incidents and undertook additional sampling tests.
The mill employs more than 375 people and is described by JDI as "the anchor of a forest products value chain that sustains over 4,600 direct jobs in Canada and the US.