Environment and Climate Change Canada investigating salt runoff at Picton Terminals

The Whitefish Bay docked at Picton Terminals in November, 2016. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Enforcement officers look into compliance with Fisheries Act




A federal regulatory body is investigating to see if contraventions to the Fisheries Act were violated by stormwater pollution flowing from a Picton Bay port operation.

Picton Bay is known to be home to many species of sport fish including bass, northern pike, and perch and is a super highway for walleye that migrate from Lake Ontario to the Bay of Quinte every fall.

It’s believed but not confirmed the section of the Fisheries Act in question is contained in Section 34 which concerns fisheries protection and pollution prevention.

ECCC spokesperson Isabel Lavictoire said the federal body administers and enforces the laws that protect the air, water, and natural environment from polluters.

“For example, we are responsible for administering and enforcing the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish,” Lavictoire said. “We take our enforcement role very seriously and if violations are found, enforcement action will be taken in accordance with the compliance and enforcement policy for the habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.”

While Lavictoire was unable to offer details of the genesis of the investigation prior to press time, it was confirmed to the Gazette by ECCC enforcement officer Dave Bauman that an officer monitoring the Ontario Spills Action Centre summaries observed a report indicating stormwater runoff from sodium chloride piles at the Picton Terminals site flowing into Picton Bay.

“If it’s within our jurisdiction or mandate to enforce, we then create a file,” Bauman said. “It’s in the works.”

The official wouldn’t specify as to whether it’s a single incident or a series of stormwater events being investigated.

Around 120,000 metric tonnes of sodium chloride are offloaded annually by tanker and stockpiled for winter weather driving applications by eastern regional municipalities and road maintenance companies at the port operation, a practice that predates Picton Terminals ownership by decades however amounts in previous decades might have been somewhat less.

Picton Terminals have been cited by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change with provincial officer’s orders to mitigate stormwater runoff and the orders include timelines for tarping off arriving road salt shipments, monitoring wells that are measured quarterly, settling ponds and other strategies.

Picton Terminals owner and operator Ben Doornekamp said he had not been in contact with the ECCC but would be continuing to work with the MOECC.
In an e-mail to the Gazette, Doornekamp said prior to his ownership, salt laden stormwater of higher concentrations were entering the bay for some time.

“We visually noticed this during our first water tour in Picton Bay along north shore east of the port property,” Doornekamp said. “MOE and Picton Terminals have come up with a permanent solution and are in the process of developing an interim solution until the permanent solution is in place.”

Earlier this year through provincial direction, Picton Terminals added two larger ponds and a berm so salt-laden stormwater now must flow through four ponds and the berm before following along a natural gradient into Picton Bay.

“The 2017 version creates more filtration mechanisms but not nearly enough,” Doornekamp said. “Dry salt storage solves this problem.”

The dry storage solution involves removing portions of the cliff face east of the ship loader and creating a set of dry storage coverall roofs that would house the salt from the elements before it’s trucked to various municipalities in eastern Ontario. This solution is currently undergoing MOECC review and would be the first such sodium chloride solution at a Great Lakes port.

Doornekamp added it was his understanding the MOECC didn’t want an interim solution to be the only solution and Picton Terminals agreed.

“It’s been a struggle and we’ve exhausted many options trying to permanently clean up the salt situation,” Doornekamp said. “We now have a permanent solution and now PT and MOE are comfortable implementing an interim solution until approvals and construction is complete.”

It’s unknown when the results of the investigation will be announced by ECCC.