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Prince Rupert Port Authority found guilty of burning prohibited material in Ridley Burn Trial

Burning the old dock on Ridley Island for five days in 2017 led to several environmental charges
(The Northern View file photo)

The Prince Rupert Port Authority was found guilty of conducting an open burn of prohibited materials contrary to the provincial Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation (OBSCR).

The B.C. Ministry of Environment laid three charges against the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) for burning treated wood for five days on Ridley Island in June 2017.

“The Prince Rupert Port Authority appreciates the work and time Judge Mrozinski spent on this case, and will be taking time to further consider [Mrozinski’s] findings and reasons for the decision. PRPA is committed to ensuring that impacts to the environment are considered and mitigated in all aspects of its operations,” stated the Port.

On June 23, 2017, the first full day of the burn, several residents of Port Edward felt they were experiencing adverse effects from the fire.

READ MORE: Week-long smoky sights from Ridley Island, report Port Ed residents

READ MORE: Port apologizes for Ridley fire

Witnesses testified the burn pile was the largest they had seen and reported symptoms ranging from a sore throat, difficulty breathing, irritated eyes, nausea and gagging, and detecting a chemical odour from the burn. The fire burned for some six days before PRPA extinguished it

Several witnesses identified the odour as creosote. PRPA said the material was mistakenly classified as organic waste suitable for burning.

In addition to the treated wood or pilings from the Odin Dock, part of the burn pile included other material such as concrete, re-bar, sheet metal, metal pipe, angle iron, plastic drainage pipe, other assorted plastics, signage and at least one small electrical box. The Crown submitted that all of the material could never lawfully be incinerated in an open burn.

PRPA was charged with three counts contrary to provincial environmental legislation.

READ MORE: Port charged with burying burnt remains of treated wood

In Count 1, the Crown charged that PRPA unlawfully caused air contaminants to be introduced into the environment produced by the open burning of prohibited materials. Count 2 charged that PRPA burned prohibited material contrary to the province’s OBSCR. Count 3 charged that PRPA allowed smoke to release from the open burn for more than 72 hours in what is known as a Category A area, also contrary to the OBSCR.

PRPA plead not guilty to all three counts, was acquitted of Count 1 and 3, but found guilty on Count 2.

In defence of the charges, PRPA claimed that as an agent of the federal crown, they were not bound by the provincial provisions.

“I find PRPA was not acting as a crown agent when it authorized the open burning of prohibited material, contrary to the OBSCR, nor is it appropriate to stay this charge on the grounds of officially induced error,” stated the judge in the oral reasons for sentencing.

No penalty has been issued yet. The case next appears before court in March.

READ MORE: Video of burnt treated materials shown on day one of Prince Rupert Port Authority trial

READ MORE: Storey’s Excavating takes stand at Ridley Island burn trial, did not review provincial open burn policy

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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