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In October 2011 Peter J. Greenways tipped an empty tank of electroplating waste over at his warehouse. A small amount of residual waste remained in the secondary containment liner of the tank.
Mr. Greenways immediately started to clean and contain the waste, but did not make a call to the proper authorities. Worrying that something was wrong, one of his neighbours called.
Investigation and cleanup
Various government officials arrived on scene and conducted a large investigation.
During the investigation, Mr. Greenways:
- told the officials no problem was present
- provided little information about the nature of the substance that had spilled
- did not produce any material safety data sheets or specifics about the substance
Faced with imperfect, incomplete information, and therefore unable to best assess how to clean up the solution in the least environmentally damaging way, City of Edmonton employees were forced to use cleanup methods that could have resulted in potential harm to the environment or themselves.
Charges and conviction
After the investigation, charges were laid against Mr. Greenways. Ultimately he was convicted of improperly transporting hazardous wastes between warehouses, an offence which had nothing to do with the original spill.
His punishment included:
- $50,000 penalty, which included bearing the cost of publishing and distributing a document on handling hazardous spills
- 2-year prohibition order
For further information on Mr. Greenways' charges and creative sentencing order, see Environmental compliance prosecutions – Closed files.
Hazardous waste spills
The Greenways Case is a reminder of the sensitivity of drainage areas to potentially harmful spills and releases, and the need for commercial and industrial operators to follow proper protocol when handling such incidents.
Spill impact on drainage areas
The Mill Creek drainage area is frequently the victim of all kinds of spills and releases – so frequent that a special oil separator has been installed to reduce environmental damage caused by such spills and releases. Even with the separator, the only way to truly protect Mill Creek and other similar areas in our environment is to minimize the effects of spills and releases.
The more information that first responders receive, the safer they will be and the less likely that environmental damage will result from a spill or release.
How to handle a spill
Everybody has to pitch in together to work with first responders in case of spills and releases. When a spill happens:
- Contain the spill quickly and safely.
- Call the Alberta government (1-800-222-6514), and your local municipality immediately and cooperate fully with them to provide as much detail as possible about what has been spilled.
- Then, clean the spill as directed.