Environment charges laid at Swiss firm's quarry
OMYA site in Lanark
Zev Singer
The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, February 27, 2003

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has charged OMYA Canada Inc. with three waste-related offences under the Environmental Protection Act for activities at its calcium carbonate quarry in the Township of Lanark Highlands, west of Ottawa.

The Swiss-based multinational mines and crushes the substance in the township before shipping it to its site near Perth.

"It is alleged," a release from the ministry stated, "that between Dec. 1, 2000 and March 21, 2001, liquid waste byproducts were taken from the processing facility and deposited at the quarry."

The company is charged with "using a waste disposal site without a provisional certificate of approval from the Ministry of the Environment, depositing waste on land for which a provisional certificate of approval has not been issued, and using equipment for the transportation and disposal of waste that is not part of an approved waste management system."

According to ministry spokesman John Steele, the maximum possible fine for the charges would be $100,000 for each of the three charges for each day of the 111-day period.

The first court appearance will be on March 25 in the Ontario Court of Justice in Perth.

OMYA spokeswoman Rita Mezzanotte said last night that the company has changed its process since the period in question.

She also said that OMYA and the ministry had and maintain a "disagreement" over whether the process they used at the time went against regulations.

"There was a disagreement in the rules of what was allowed and what was not allowed," Ms. Mezzanotte said.

The dispute centred around whether the by-products should be considered "waste" or not, she said. She described the byproducts as material left over from the mined rock after the calcium carbonate was extracted.

"In our view, it's not considered waste," she said. "We still firmly believe that we did not go contrary to any rules."

OMYA mixes the calcium carbonate with water to produce a slurry that is shipped throughout North America to make paper, paint, toothpaste, wallboard, plastics, calcium supplements, antacids and many other products.

Earlier this month, Ontario Environment Minister Chris Stockwell controversially over-ruled the province's Environmental Review Tribunal to allow the company to extract 4.5 million litres of water per day from the Tay River in Perth to use in the process.