March 10, 2003
OMYA faces illegal dumping charges in Canada
By Bruce Edwards
OMYA's calcium carbonate operation in Ontario faces fines of up to $22.5 million for alleged illegal dumping at its quarry.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment charged OMYA Canada late last month with taking "liquid waste byproducts" from the company's Perth processing plant and dumping the waste at its Tatlock quarry. The alleged dumping occurred between Dec. 1, 2000 and March 21, 2001.
The Ministry said in a statement that the alleged dumping violated provisions of the Environmental Protection Act. The charges include using a waste disposal site without approval and using equipment for the transportation and disposal of waste without approval.
Asked how serious the alleged violations were, Ministry of Environment spokesman John Steele said the Ministry regards "any violations as a serious matter."
Steele said each violation carries a maximum penalty of $68,000 for each day the violation occurred or continues to occur. The minimum fine is $0.
In Canadian currency, the potential fines are $100,000 per day for a total of $33 million.
Citing Canadian law that bars release of evidence, Steele declined to disclose how much waste was dumped at the quarry or whether the waste contained any chemicals, such as biocides, which are added to the slurry products as a preservative to prevent mold.
"We ordered the company to do an environmental impact study of what they were doing and it's now being reviewed by the hydrologists," Steele said.
A court hearing is scheduled for March 25 in Perth.
OMYA spokeswoman Rita Mezzanotte said it was the company's position that it "did nothing wrong." She said the alleged waste that was dumped posed no threat to public health. She declined further comment, again citing prohibitions under Canadian law to discuss the case.
Despite OMYA's assurances that there is no health risk, Michael Cassidy, who lives within two miles of the quarry, expressed concerns about what chemicals might be contained in the waste.
"I'm not a scientist, but there is a clear distinction between natural materials and materials that have gone through an expensive processing facility and possibly treated with a variety of different substance," Cassidy said.
The enforcement action follows a controversial decision last month that allowed OMYA to take up to 1.2 million gallons of water a day from the Tay River for its calcium carbonate processing operation.
The decision by Environment Minister Chris Stockwell reversed a previous decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal that limited OMYA's water withdrawal to 390,000 gallons of water a day.
Opponents of the water-taking plan objected on the grounds that such a large withdrawal could adversely effect drinking water supplies and fish habitat.
In Vermont, OMYA Inc. has been cited a number of times by the state for violating its water discharge and air permits at its Florence plant.
Based in Oftringen, Switzerland, OMYA AG is the world's largest producer of calcium carbonate. The mineral is used in the paint, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
Contact Bruce Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org