Slocan Valley resident lays private charges over jet fuel spill
A Slocan Valley woman has laid private information against Executive Flight Centre and the provincial government over the jet fuel spill into Lemon Creek in July of 2013.
Longtime environmental activist Marilyn Burgoon says if the provincial government won’t prosecute the Alberta transportation company for dumping 33,000 gallons of jet fuel into Lemon Creek, she will.
Employing a little used legal avenue, Burgoon filed a three count private information at the Nelson provincial court registry.
“The Fisheries Act specifically provides for private prosecutions by individuals,” she said.
“The release of 33,000 gallons of jet fuel is a clear violation of s. 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, a powerful piece of legislation,” said Burgoon.
It says that no person shall deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance in fish bearing water.
“There is so little accountability by the government. If the Ministry of Environment is not going to do the work that it is supposed to do, then it goes back to the courts.
“In addition, the right of a private citizen to lay a charge is considered a fundamental part of Canada’s criminal justice system. If government is not going to apply the laws of Canada, it is up to the people to do so.”
In June, it appeared that the Crown would not be laying charges
“I had no choice but to launch a private prosecution and let a judge review the evidence,” said Burgoon.
With the financial help of West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver, Burgoon and her Trail lawyer Lilina Lysenko will be in court October 16 to set a date for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed.
The spill, which occurred July 26, 2013, was caused when Executive Flight Centre’s truck driver took a wrong turn while delivering jet fuel to firefighters up a Lemon Creek logging road and plunged over the bank into Lemon Creek in the rig filled with jet fuel.
The driver was not hurt.
The area was evacuated, farmers had to pull their crops and hundreds of fish and animals died as a result of the accident. Human health was also affected.
“In the report written by SNC Lavelin (worked for the company to do the clean –up) they admitted to collecting 261 dead fish. Local residents have dead fish in their freezers and the clean-up crew was directed to throw dead fish, animal and bird carcasses back into the river. Therefore the exact count will never be known,” said Burgoon.
The province is also named in the charges.
“The Province was involved in controlling where the staging area was located, and providing directions to the same. The Province could and should have controlled the access to the staging area, and as such is also responsible for the spill,” said Lysenko.
“We are hoping that by laying private information, this will encourage the government to step up and take over the file. That’s their job,” said Lysenko.