More than eight months after initiating an investigation into coal dumping at Ridley Terminals Inc. (RTI), Environment Canada has “determined that a deleterious substance has not been deposited” into the ocean.
“In this case, enforcement officers followed up on the allegations to verify compliance … and did not find evidence of any violations,” said Mark Johnson, a spokesperson for Environment Canada, adding enforcement officers verify compliance with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Fisheries Act.
“Enforcement officers have not found evidence of any violations with respect to the allegations and are no longer actively looking into the matter.”
The two on-site eyewitnesses interviewed for the Northern View’s report that brought light to the allegations were angry when informed of the results.
One source with access to the site said the results of the investigation aren’t surprising, accusing Environment Canada of downplaying a previous violation at RTI in 2010 when the facility received a warning letter for dumping 15 to 18 tonnes of coal into the ocean from shiploading machinery.
“They turned more than 200 tonnes into 15 to 18,” the source said.
A second on-site eyewitness said they couldn’t believe the findings of the investigation, calling it “horrible news”.
“Denial is a horrible thing,” they said.
Both sources are frustrated that Environment Canada didn’t include the use of underwater divers in its recent investigation of RTI or the 2010 investigation to determine if coal was deliberately dumped into the ocean.
“The incident did not require the use of underwater divers,” explained Johnson in an email to the Northern View.
One of the eyewitnesses who first reported the allegation said Environment Canada’s failure to check underwater is “disgusting”.
“It’s negligent in their fiduciary obligation,” the individual said.
“We think Environment Canada is taking care of us, but they’re not … it did this without going underwater.”
Sources are also upset that Environment Canada, a department of government, did the analysis of a government-owned facility.
“A federal agency investigating a federally owned terminal is a conflict of interest. There should be a public inquest into any government facility,” one source said.
Environment Canada isn’t releasing details of its investigation into other allegations brought forward in the Northern View report, including allegations that RTI has inadequate equipment to prevent coal from reaching the ocean and doesn’t have a properly functioning, closed-loop drainage system and settling ponds.
“We continue to communicate with company representatives to ensure they remain in compliance with both the pollution prevention prohibitions of the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999,” Johnson said.
After the initial story was printed, sources say work was done to RTI’s closed-loop drainage system and settling ponds and its sprinkler system was turned on more regularly to prevent coal dust from becoming airborne. Additionally, sources say a water truck has increased its presence on site.
The Prince Rupert Port Authority, Ridley Terminals’ landlord, are still investigating the matter.
“There is no new information to share at this time,” Michael Gurney, manager of corporate communication for the port, said.
Michelle Bryant, corporate affairs manager of RTI, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.