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UBC fined $1.2M for 2014 release of ammonia into Fraser River tributary

WATCH: (Aired Oct. 18, 2017) What exactly is ammonia and why is it so dangerous?

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has been slapped with a $1.2-million fine by the federal government over the release of ammonia into a tributary of the Fraser River.

The release came during repairs on the refrigeration system at Thunderbird Arena in 2014 and resulted in the death of roughly 70 fish, Environment and Climate Change Canada said in a statement.

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Deadly ammonia leak in Fernie blamed on faulty system
Deadly ammonia leak in Fernie blamed on faulty system

The company conducting the repairs, CIMCO Refrigeration, was fined $800,000 after pleading guilty to depositing the substance into an area frequented by fish.

As a result of the fines, which were handed down Friday, both the company and the university have now been added to the Environmental Offender’s Registry.

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According to the ministry, CIMCO and the university were completing repairs on the refrigeration system and used a negative pressure device to purge residual ammonia vapours. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall and through a ditch before landing in Booming Ground Creek, which flows into the Fraser and is frequented by fish.

The ministry was contacted on Sept. 12, 2014, about a smell of ammonia at the ditch near the creek, which was identified as coming from the arena.

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Officers and park rangers found the dead fish over the course of two days following the incident. The ammonia found in the storm drain and the ditch was found to be harmful to marine life.

The university was found guilty of depositing a deleterious substance into an area frequented by fish and failing to report the incident in a timely manner. The school is also being ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality in the area where the release occurred.

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According to the ministry, UBC has filed an appeal against the convictions.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for UBC said the school’s counsel is reviewing the decision to determine next possible steps.

Global News has reached out to CIMCO Refrigeration for comment.

The fines from both organizations will be directed towards the federal government’s environmental damages fund, which is spent on priority projects that benefit the environment.